Crucial Hearing Approaches In PG&E North Bay Fire Lawsuits
May 14, 2018
On May 18, the San Francisco Superior Court will hold a hearing, the outcome of which could prove crucial to the fate of over 100 lawsuits accusing PG&E Co.—the California utility giant—of causing the deadly and devasting North Bay Fires of October 2017. At issue before Judge Curtis Karnow will be whether or not PG&E can be found legally liable for the role the company’s power lines may have played in sparking the blazes, even if PG&E is not found to have been negligent in its conduct. Potentially, many billions of dollars in damages hinge on the outcome.
Attorneys for plaintiffs who fell victim to the fires argue that PG&E should be held responsible under the legal doctrine of inverse condemnation, which would hold the company liable for damages caused by its equipment even absent a negligence finding. Under the doctrine, which typically applies to government agencies, plaintiffs would need to demonstrate only that PG&E’s equipment was a substantial cause of the fires, a significantly lower legal hurdle.
For its part, PG&E argues that to find the company responsible under inverse condemnation essentially would mean financial ruin, costs that necessarily would be passed along to rate payers. This process would be complicated, PG&E further contends, because although the company is a privately-owned utility, it must seek approval for rate hikes from the California Public Utilities Commission, which has indicated it will apply a “prudent manager” standard to such requests.
The California state insurance commissioner has stated that insured losses from the fire have totaled more than $3.3 billion. Cumulatively, the North Bay Fires that began October 8 resulted in the deaths of 44 people, damaged or destroyed 14,700 homes, and charred more than 245,000 acres of land.
The San Francisco Superior Court is overseeing the consolidated cases, which were originally filed in Sonoma and Napa counties, as well as San Francisco county. Some municipalities—such as the counties of Sonoma, Mendocino, and Napa—also are suing the utility giant.
Did you suffer harm as a result of the devasting North Bay Fires of October 2017? TheLawFirm.com has a team of experienced, local attorneys ready to take on PG&E and any other entity that may be responsible for this terrible disaster. Contact us today for a free consultation!
PG&E Reveals Cost Defrayment Strategy In Earnings
May 14, 2018
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) is a somewhat unique company. On the one hand, as the quasi-governmental, monopolistic provider of essential utilities to millions of Californians and thousands of businesses, it is subject to a variety of rules, regulations, and laws that do not apply to ordinary companies.
On the other hand, however, PG&E is an investor-owned company with a legal duty to achieve maximum value for its shareholders. As such, it also is subject to certain disclosure requirements required of publicly traded businesses, like earnings calls.
On May 3, PG&E conducted an earnings call with its investors, in which it revealed its true intentions regarding any costs it faces from the devastating North Bay Fires of October 2017 (or any similar disaster): fight like hell to pay as little as possible while seeking reimbursement elsewhere for what it does pay.
To paraphrase one attorney representing victims of the North Bay Fires, PG&E essentially has burned the victims’ homes and businesses down, and now it wants to charge them—via rate increases—to rebuild.
According to the Press Democrat, a local North Bay newspaper, PG&E announced on the earnings call that “it will pursue all legal and legislative avenues to find ways of defraying rising costs of devastating events, like the October wildfires, that state regulators assign to utility companies when they’re deemed responsible.”
While PG&E may have been taking a more public-relations-friendly approach outwardly, the earnings call revealed the company’s true intentions, revealing once again the conflict of interest inherent in a for-profit company being granted monopoly rights over essential services.
That PG&E is looking to “pursue all legal and legislative avenues” once again highlights the need for experienced, diligent attorneys fighting on the side of victims, seeking the compensation they deserve while holding large, politically connected corporations to account.
If you or your family has been a victim of the devastating North Bay Fires, contact the experienced, local attorneys at TheLawFirm.com today for a free legal consultation. PG&E has a team of lawyers on its side, and you should too!
The Press Democrat
PG&E Gives Glimpse Of Upcoming Lawsuit Defense
March 17, 2018
In a series of eight separate filings submitted to the San Francisco Superior Court on March 16, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) offered its most detailed legal responses to date over allegations of its role in the catastrophic North Bay Fires of October 2017. Citing the potential for the court’s ruling in this case to set a precedent threatening the economic health of all private utility companies—not just PG&E—the company urged the court’s restraint.
Whereas victims of the North Bay Fires have sued PG&E alleging that the company was responsible—at least in part—for causing the devastating blazes, PG&E responded that the fires were brought on by a rare but dangerous combination of heavy rains—promoting lush vegetation growth—followed by severe drought, which resulted an abundance of fuel that lay vulnerable to the conjunction of heat and high winds that struck the area on October 8 and 9, 2017.
PG&E further contented that it should not be forced to bear the economic burden of the fire’s damage because it does not have the ability to unilaterally raise rates in order to offset the billions of dollars in damages for which the company potentially is on the hook.
The reaction to this line of argument by the utility company was swift and harsh, with many accusing PG&E of a massive display of tone-deafness.
As one plaintiffs’ attorney told The Press Democrat, “PG&E wants to increase your utility bill to pay for burning your house down.”
Among other things, plaintiffs allege that PG&E is responsible for failing to ensure power poles and lines could withstand high winds; failing to provide proper maintenance to power lines and other equipment; and failing to trim trees and other vegetation to keep them a safe distance from powerlines.
Have you suffered property damage, personal injury, or loss of a loved one due to the tragic North Bay Fires of October 2017? If so, TheLawFirm.com has a team of experienced attorneys ready to defend your rights and help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation!
The Press Democrat
February 5, 2018
On January 29, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to move forward with a lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) over the historic wildfires that ravaged northern California in October 2017, becoming the first government entity to do so. Additional municipalities are expected to join Sonoma County in its case, among them Lake County, Mendocino County, and Napa County, all of which suffered considerable damage as a result of the fires.
While state investigations into the origins of the devastating fires are ongoing, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors issued its decision following an investigation conducted by private attorneys hired by the county.
PG&E already has reported multiple damaged and/or downed power lines and poles in the vicinity of where the fires are suspected to have started, leading to widespread speculation that these power lines might have played a role in igniting the flames.
“We believe based on an investigation attorneys put together that PG&E was a significant cause of [the October fire in Sonoma County],” said Sonoma County Counsel Bruce Goldstein.
The suit will seek compensation for costs incurred by the county as a result of the fire, which burned more than 137 square miles in Sonoma County alone, resulting in 24 deaths and 5,130 lost homes. The additional expenses involve clean-up and debris-removal costs—including overtime pay for county workers—as well as recovery funds for the county parks destroyed in the blaze.
While the state and federal government in conjunction with private insurance companies have covered some of the costs, the county estimates that it still has shouldered an additional financial burden of up to $25 million due to the disaster. As a result, the county is facing an expected $21 million-dollar budget shortfall, exacerbated by a $10.7 million loss in property tax revenue from structures destroyed in the fire.
If you had property destroyed or suffered the loss of a loved one in the horrific northern California fires of October 2017, contact the expert attorneys at TheLawFirm.com now for a free legal consultation.
February 5, 2018
A San Francisco Superior Court judge has ordered the consolidation of pretrial proceedings for over 50 lawsuits related to the devastating north bay fires last fall. In consolidating the suits, all of which seek to hold Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) accountable for its alleged role in causing the fires, the Court ruled against PG&E, which had sought to proceed on a case-by-case basis.
In reaching his decision, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow cited the similarity of the claims and the large amount of evidence common to all the cases as supporting consolidation in a single court, while arguing that the complexity of the litigation made the San Francisco Superior Court the most suitable venue, with its electronic filing capabilities and its department devoted specifically to complex litigation. Karnow further clarified that, once the pretrial proceedings are complete, plaintiffs will be free to bring suit in their home counties, should they so desire.
While Judge Karnow stated the total number of lawsuits presently as 56, southern California attorney John Fiske claims that his firm represents hundreds of additional plaintiffs that will soon be bringing suit, and he predicts that ultimately the number of individuals suing PG&E over the Wine Country fires will number in the thousands.
A growing body of evidence suggests that PG&E may be at least partially responsible for the devastating 2017 north bay fires. Stay tuned to TheLawFirm.com for the latest news on north bay fire litigation. And if you have suffered injury, loss of a loved one, or property damage as a result of the north bay fires, contact the expert attorneys at TheLawFirm.com now for a free consultation. .