According to the October 17, 2017, Press Democrat, “The explosive failure of power lines and other electrical equipment has regularly ranked among the top three singular sources of California wildfires for the last several years.” For example, “In 2015, the last year of reported data, electrical power problems sparked the burning of 149,241 acres- more than twice the amount from any other cause.”

The above data does not include the October 2017 fires which more than double these tragic losses. Electric lines are the single most dangerous fire risk to our communities and families in California. The known risks of electric lines have been known since the dawn of powerlines in the early part of the last century.

There are a number of sources of fire ignition from powerlines and equipment. First, consider the known risk of fire from the drought for the last 5 years. We have seen other fires before the October 2017 fires since the drought began, so the added and increased danger these last few years was a foreseeable and known danger.

If a power pole is not properly maintained, they can collapse in winds or if struck by a tree. This results in a live power line going to the ground which creates a known fire danger. If a tree falls into wires and either causes wires to cross or causes lines to be knocked to the ground, then this will also create a known fire danger. A tree limb can also fall across power lines causing them to break or cross and create the same fire risk. Trees can also fall into transformers and cause damage which results in fire danger.

The above-known fire risks will be increased in drought conditions and if a utility fails to clear the trees, brush and ‘fuel’ under the powerlines, this will also increase the risk of a fire taking hold. A utility can be responsible for failing to maintain trees or failing to clear the fuel source under the lines.

There can also be an increased fire risk if power lines are not de-energized as soon as they fall. A conductor or line on the ground with no power reduces or eliminates the fire risk. There is also some equipment which can surge power to a downed line, and such equipment can also cause fires. Fire danger is a known risk of downed power lines and electrical equipment.

The California PUC regulates utilities to attempt to reduce fire risks. In addition to the CPUC rules, there are other laws in California which require utilities to reduce or eliminate fire risks.

* This information is provided to supply relevant information concerning the PG&E lawsuits, and should not be received as legal advice. If you are already represented by legal counsel please rely upon them for information and advice. No guarantees or representations about the success of the PG&E lawsuits can be drawn from this information.

 – The brother of a paraplegic woman who died in the Tubbs fire last month has filed a negligence and unlawful death lawsuit in Sonoma County against PG&E.
   
Torrey Thomas’ lawsuit and others allege PG&E’s failure to maintain its electrical power lines caused them to fall to the ground and spark the Tubbs fire that killed 23 people in Sonoma County last month.
   
Thomas’ sister Tamara Thomas, 47, died in a 6-bed residential care home on Crestview Court near the Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa.
   
“Tamara Thomas was my sister – my only sister. She died 26 days ago and I still can’t get it out of my head. She knew that she was going to burn alive. And she did. This didn’t have to happen. She didn’t have to die,” Thomas read in a prepared statement.
   

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Whether you have insurance or do not have insurance, you have no doubt discovered that you have more losses than insurance covers and many losses that can never be replaced. Insurance will at best cover only part of your losses if you have insurance.

General categories of losses include:

  • Businesses Damaged by Fire or Smoke
  • Businesses Disrupted by the Fires or Who Lost Customers
  • Homeowners
  • Renters
  • Property Damages
  • Loss of Job or Income
  • Wrongful Death
  • Physical Injuries
  • Emotional Distress

Some losses are obvious, like the cost to rebuild a home. However, even rebuilt a home may have a lower value due to the appearance of the neighborhood and loss of trees and vegetation. If you choose not to rebuild, your lot may have a decrease in value due to the fires, and this would also be a loss.

Additional living expenses may only last 2 years under some insurance policies and people may not be able to rebuild in that time frame. The lack of materials, building crews, and other building professionals may delay rebuilding. Thus some people may be forced to relocate and incur moving expenses.

Personal property, i.e. the stuff in your home or apartment, often has value not covered by insurance. We all have irreplaceable photos and family heirlooms, collections, and other items which will not be valued fully or covered by insurance. Limitations in some insurance policies will cap the value your insurer will pay. However, caps on insurance are irrelevant as to what can be recovered in
Court or by settlement. You will need to make a detailed list of all such property. Simply, because insurance may not pay for the item does not mean that you cannot recover the full or fair value of the loss in Court.

Also, consider collecting photos from friends and family to confirm what personal property you owned. Such photos may also help demonstrate the value of your house or other property damaged like yards, landscaping, pools, or children’s play areas. Additionally, any video you have which shows the property before and after the fire is very useful.

For business owners, tax record or profit and loss statements will be useful to prove loss of income if your business was disrupted. Similarly, if your business was damaged by the smoke or fire, in addition to repair expenses you likely have lost income. Again document everything as you cannot have too much proof of any of your losses. Additionally, just because insurance may not cover a loss does not mean that those losses are not recoverable in Court or by settlement.

* This information is provided to supply relevant information concerning the PG&E lawsuits, and should not be received as legal advice. If you are already represented by legal counsel please rely upon them for information and advice. No guarantees or representations about the success of the PG&E lawsuits can be drawn from this information.

PG&E has a history of causing fires and burning down homes. In fact, there are a number of cases brought before the California Supreme Court involving claims against PG&E. Irelan-Yuba Gold Quartz mining Co. V. Pacific Gas & Electric Co., 116 P.2d 611 (Cal. 1941); Beresford V. Pacific Gas & Electric Co., 290 P.2d 498 (Cal. 1955). In the 1990 Campbell fire in Tehama County, PG&E burned over 125,892 acres and 27 structures. In 1994, in the Nevada County fires PG&E caused a large fire which lead to PG&E being criminally convicted for failing to trim trees and 34 structures burning. In 2015, PG&E caused the Butte fires and burned 921 structures.

Other fires caused by electric lines include the 1923 Berkeley fire, the 1970 Laguna fire, the 1990 Campbell fire, the 2007 San Diego fires, the 2007 Malibu fire, the Rice fire in 2007, the Butte fire in 2015, and the October 2017 North Bay fires. Electric lines are known sources of ignition for major fires.

In one example of a more extreme case, San Diego Gas & Electric paid out more than $2 billion to insurance companies, governmental agencies, homeowners, business owners, and others who suffered damage in 2007 when sparking power lines ignited brush in a remote area and started three major fires. The fires resulted in two deaths and the destruction of more than 1,200 homes and businesses. SDG&E conceded it was their equipment that sparked some of the blazes, but never admitted liability.

In 2007, the Malibu fires that burned more than a dozen structures were caused by Southern California Edison utility poles that fell during heavy winds; they paid $63.5 million in fines.

* This information is provided to supply relevant information concerning the PG&E lawsuits, and should not be received as legal advice.  If you are already represented by legal counsel please rely upon them for information and advice. No guarantees or representations about the success of the PG&E lawsuits can be drawn from this information.

PG&E has a history of causing fires and burning down homes. In fact, there are a number of cases brought before the California Supreme Court involving claims against PG&E. Irelan-Yuba Gold Quartz mining Co. V. Pacific Gas & Electric Co., 116 P.2d 611 (Cal. 1941); Beresford V. Pacific Gas & Electric Co., 290 P.2d 498 (Cal. 1955). In the 1990 Campbell fire in Tehama County, PG&E burned over 125,892 acres and 27 structures. In 1994, in the Nevada County fires PG&E caused a large fire which lead to PG&E being criminally convicted for failing to trim trees and 34 structures burning. In 2015, PG&E caused the Butte fires and burned 921 structures.

PG&E has been sued by over 100 people, as of early November 2017, who contend PG&E burned their homes and businesses. The California Public Utility Commission has also directed PG&E to preserve trees, conductors, and other equipment and evidence which suggests the origin of the fires. The 911 calls indicated PG&E powerlines were downed in the area of fires.

* This information is provided to supply relevant information concerning the PG&E lawsuits, and should not be received as legal advice.  If you are already represented by legal counsel please rely upon them for information and advice. No guarantees or representations about the success of the PG&E lawsuits can be drawn from this information.

In 1994, PG&E was found guilty of 739 counts of negligence and fined nearly $30 million by state regulators when trees touched its high-voltage wires in Nevada County in the Sierra foothills, sparking a fire near the town of Rough and Ready that destroyed 12 homes and a 19th century schoolhouse. Afterward, prosecutors found that PG&E had diverted nearly $80 million from its tree-cutting programs into profits.

In April of this year, the CPUC fined PG&E for its role in the Butte Fire in 2015, which destroyed 549 homes and killed two people in a fire that burned for 22 days, charring 70,868 acres of land. PG&E ended up paying an $8.3 million fine to the California Public Utilities Commission and $90 million to Cal Fire to cover firefighting costs. More than 1,000 lawsuits and claims are still pending against the utility.

PG&E was also fined previously for it’s failure to properly maintain its natural gas lines, leading to the 2010 San Bruno explosion. Eight people died in the explosion, which destroyed 38 homes. The company was fined $1.6 billion by the CPUC, and a federal jury convicted the company on five charges of violating federal pipeline safety regulations and one charge of obstructing an official National Transportation Safety Board probe into the blast.

* This information is provided to supply relevant information concerning the PG&E lawsuits, and should not be received as legal advice. If you are already represented by legal counsel please rely upon them for information and advice. No guarantees or representations about the success of the PG&E lawsuits can be draw from this information.

The CPUC regulates electric, natural gas, telecommunications, water, railroad, rail transit, and passenger transportation companies. The CPUC serves the public interest by protecting consumers and ensuring the provision of safe, reliable utility service and infrastructure at just and reasonable rates, with a commitment to environmental enhancement and a healthy California economy. Find out more about them HERE.
The CPUC has directed PG&E to preserve evidence concerning the cause of the California fires. The PUC also has many regulations which require PG&E to trim trees, maintain the right of ways, maintain its equipment, and to protect the public. The PUC also notified PG&E about fire danger created by the California drought conditions.

* This information is provided to supply relevant information concerning the PG&E lawsuits, and should not be received as legal advice. If you are already represented by legal counsel please rely upon them for information and advice. No guarantees or representations about the success of the PG&E lawsuits can be draw from this information.

No, they are not. A class action has a single person or a couple of people who bring claims on behalf of a large group with similar issues. Class actions are not appropriate for large fire loss cases as the losses are individual to each person and one class representative’s damages would tell you nothing about another person’s losses as everyone has unique losses. Some people lost personal property, some lost a home, some lost a rental property, some lost a business, some lost a job, and some businesses were not hit by the fire but they lost revenues due to disruptions or loss of customers.
Thus rather than a class action, the claims against PG&E will be individual claims brought by those affected by the fires. Large groups of similar, individual claims are sometimes called mass actions or mass tort claims. If you decide to engage our firm to file a claim for your losses against PG&E, then an individual claim will be filed for you.

* This information is provided to supply relevant information concerning the PG&E lawsuits, and should not be received as legal advice. If you are already represented by legal counsel please rely upon them for information and advice. No guarantees or representations about the success of the PG&E lawsuits can be draw from this information.

PAUL PAYNE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | November 4, 2017, 3:35PM

With nearly the intensity of a fast-burning wildfire, lawyers from across the country have swept into Santa Rosa in search of clients who suffered losses in the recent blazes and want to sue PG&E, seeking billions of dollars in potential damages.

Seemingly overnight, out-of-town firms have moved in and set up shop, soliciting business through newspaper and billboard ads, informational meetings at hotel ballrooms and social media.

The rush is happening as many local lawyers who lost their own homes are still digging out from the rubble or awaiting the results of official investigations to determine the cause of the fires.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Patrick Emery, a partner in the Santa Rosa firm of Abbey, Weitzenberg, Warren & Emery, where several members lost their homes. “This community has never had a disaster of this scale so we haven’t experienced it here.”

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PAUL PAYNE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | November 3, 2017, 6:01PM

A tug-of-war is brewing over whether Sonoma County or San Francisco courts should handle the thousands of wildfire lawsuits expected to emerge against PG&E.

Lawyers representing one group of plaintiffs argue San Francisco is a better venue because the court is larger and has the administrative capacity for more complex cases. They have petitioned the California Judicial Council to appoint one San Francisco judge to oversee all pretrial matters including depositions, hearings and evidence disputes.But other lawyers seeking damages against PG&E say the cases belong in Sonoma County where the fires charred about 100,000 acres, destroyed 4,000 homes and killed 23 people. They are seeking to block a move across the Golden Gate to PG&E’s headquarters city with their own Judicial Council motion.

“Why would I want to fight the case in PG&E’s backyard?” Santa Rosa attorney Roy Miller said in a press conference Friday outside the Sonoma County courthouse. “It’s insane to go to San Francisco.”

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