Wave of lawsuits blames PG&E for deadly California fires

November 14, 2017
Sacramento Bee

Law firms from across the country have begun preparing and filing suits against Pacific Gas & Electric Co., blaming the utility for October’s massive firestorms and paving the way for what may result in billions of dollars in payouts if the company is found responsible.

The first suits were filed in the week after the blazes erupted, and at least seven more were filed Tuesday in superior courts in San Francisco, Napa and Sonoma counties by a team of five California law firms, including Sacramento’s Dreyer Babich Buccola Wood Campora.

Dreyer Babich previously sued PG&E over the 2010 San Bruno gas explosion that killed eight people and the 2015 Butte Fire that killed two people, destroyed 549 homes and burned more than 109 square miles, mostly in Calaveras County.

Attorney Steve Campora said his firm expects to file at least five wrongful death suits in the fires in the future and that he anticipated additional lawsuits against PG&E.

“What we need to consider here is, these people are innocent victims,” Campora said. “They do nothing to contribute to the injuries or damage they sustained there in the sanctuary of their own homes, and they’re subjected to explosions and fire. I have a real problem with that.”

More than a dozen lawsuits have been filed over the series of destructive wildfires that erupted Oct. 8 and swept across Northern California’s wine country and Santa Rosa as well as Yuba and Mendocino counties. It was the deadliest week in California wildfire history, with at least 43 people killed. The value of the homes, businesses and vehicles burned in the flames is expected to total $3.3 billion.

The group of fire victims who sued Tuesday include a Napa County winery owner, former San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan and Sonoma County resident Gregory Wilson, who survived the flames by seeking safety in his swimming pool. They blame PG&E for failing to maintain its power lines and for allowing trees and vegetation to grow close enough that it sparked blazes when winds knocked down the lines on the night of Oct. 8.

“...It is clear that the North Bay fires were an inevitable byproduct of PG&E’s willful and conscious disregard of public safety,” one of the lawsuits says, blaming the utility for decades-old practices of diverting money from maintenance efforts “to boost corporate profits.”

PG&E responded Tuesday with a statement noting that there is no official cause yet for what sparked the fires... (To read the entire article, please click HERE)