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Northern California Wildfire Legal Updates

March 29, 2018

PG&E Execs Get Millions In Bonuses While Seeking To Pay Homeowners Nothing

In mid-March we learned that PG&E was engaged in an expensive and comprehensive “backroom politics” campaign lobbying California state legislators to change current liability laws to immunize PG&E from responsibility in the North Bay firestorms. PG&E is seeking financial immunity from the state legislature, a change in the law of inverse condemnation, and the creation of liability hurdles to make it impossible for homeowners to be made whole.

The California Constitution provides that where a public utility takes property without just compensation, it is liable under the doctrine of inverse condemnation. PG&E is seeking to overturn that law.

PG&E went to Sacramento and floated an analogy to legislators that “if a drunk driver hits a utility pole, and the utility wire drops to the ground and starts a fire, then PG&E is unfairly liable for inverse condemnation”. That false premise struck a sympathetic chord with some legislators. But the analogy is wrong.

Although final reports of investigative agencies have not yet been issued, it is clear that the North Bay fires did not happen as the result of a drunk driver. The truth is that PG&E did not follow its own internal guidelines for line maintenance, recloser performance, vegetation management, and a host of other safety-related mandates. PG&E failed in its obligation to be safe.

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March 13, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO: Wildfire Victim Advocates Attorneys Michael Kelly & Frank Pitre Named Co-Lead Counsel In California North Bay Fires Litigation

Wildfire Victim Advocates legal group proudly announces attorneys Michael Kelly of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger and Frank Pitre of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP have been named as Co-Lead Counsel, representing thousands of individual plaintiffs filing lawsuits against Pacific Gas & Electric Company and PG&E Corporation as a result of the North Bay Fires. The appointment was made following the first case management hearing in San Francisco Superior Court on Tuesday, February 27 and signed by Judge Curtis E.A. Karnow on March 6, 2018.

“It is an honor to be placed in a position of such responsibility,” said Kelly. “The damage, loss and harm our friends and neighbors have endured as a result of the North Bay Fires has been catastrophic and we’re ready to get to work, moving the claims for damage from all of the PG&E originated fires to resolution. Our goal is justice for the victims and the survivors.”

Serving as Co-Lead Counsel with Kelly and Pitre is Bill Robins III of Robins Cloud LLP. Together, these three head a team of more than 30 firms who will be responsible for overseeing and coordinating all pretrial activities in the complex litigation, including the briefing, filing and arguing of motions, taking all discovery, as well as appearing before the court at all court ordered proceedings and presenting cases at trial for the individual plaintiffs.

Attorney Khaldoun Baghdadi with Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger and Wildfire Victim Advocates was also appointed to serve as Plaintiffs’ Co-Liaison Counsel along with Amy Eskin of Levin Simes LLP and Steven Skikos of Skikos, Crawford, Skikos & Joseph LLP. Their responsibilities include receiving and distributing orders, notices and correspondence from the court to plaintiffs’ counsel, as well as maintain and make available a complete set of all filed pleadings and orders filed and/or served in the coordinated proceedings.

In addition, Wildfire Victim Advocates attorneys Brian Panish and Rahul Ravipudi of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, Steve Campora of Dreyer Babich Buccola Wood Campora LLP as well as Brendan M. Kunkle and Michael Green of Abbey, Weitzenberg, Warren & Emery have been named members of the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee. Members of this committee will, along with other responsibilities, coordinate pretrial activities and work performed by lead counsel and liaison counsel as well as call meetings and consult with individual Plaintiffs’ counsel on matters of common concern.

The North Bay Fires started when electrical equipment owned and maintained by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) came into contact with vegetation and/or other equipment owned and maintained by the utility, all because of PG&E’s alleged disregard of mandated safety practices and the foreseeable risks associated with failure to reasonably manage its infrastructure. As a result of the North Bay Fires, at least 43 people were killed, many others injured, more than 14,700 homes were destroyed and over 245,000 acres burned throughout California’s Wine County.

The Judicial Council Coordination Proceeding is being heard in the Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco. (California North Bay Fire Cases (JCCP No. 4955))

If you or someone you love has been affected by the North Bay Fires – including the Tubbs, Atlas, Nuns, Oakmont, Adobe, Norrbom, Partrick, Redwood, Pressley, Sulphur and Pocket fires – please call our Wildfire Victim Advocates attorneys at (707) 658-4415 to schedule a free consultation and discuss your legal options.

Residents of Northern California, Including Santa Rosa, Napa, Sonoma & Calistoga

We are already representing clients throughout the fire ravaged counties. With our local partners in Santa Rosa the Walkup Law Firm Fire Litigation Team has filed lawsuits against Pacific Gas & Electric for injuries, damages and losses that have occurred in Sonoma County, Napa County, Solano County, Lake County and Mendocino County. The Walkup Wildfire Legal Team is representing victims who suffered personal injury, wrongful death, and substantial real property losses.

By Order dated January 4, 2018, all filed cases will be consolidated in a San Francisco Superior Court Judicial Council Coordinated proceeding (click here to read the court order). This includes all cases for clients who lost homes, businesses, ranchland, and undeveloped real property in Calistoga, Kenwood, Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Napa, Solano County, Mendocino, Lake County, Fountain Grove, Coffee Park and unincorporated areas throughout Napa County.

The Walkup Fire team represents, and/or has filed lawsuits on behalf of, clients who sustained burn injuries in the Tubbs Fire, Nuns Fire (includes Adobe, Norrbom, Pressley, Partrick, and Oakmont fires), Atlas Fire, Potter/Redwood Fire, Sulphur Fire, and Helena/Fork Fire. We have also filed wrongful death cases and we represent the survivors of people who died in the fires.

Beyond fire related injury and wrongful death lawsuits, we are honored to have been retained by property owners to recover on their behalf for emotional distress and uninsured financial losses to homes, wineries, growing crops, business structures, landscape, ranchland, and significant historic trees.

We are representing property owners who have lost property in the Tubbs Fire, Nuns Fire, Atlas Fire, Potter/Redwood Fire, Sulphur Fire, and Helena/Fork Fire.

Our team is working with clients to maximize their insurance policy recoveries while also advising them on dealing with issues surrounding the process of rebuilding or relocating, depending upon their needs.

If you, a friend or a family member, have sustained significant losses from the terrible October 2017 wildfires in Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties which will not be covered by insurance for such things as increased costs of construction, uncovered cost of rebuilding, uncovered losses of personal property, including items of special sentimental value, lost business opportunities, lost wages, and other financial losses, call the Northern California Wildfire Litigation Team at Walkup Melodia. Our team of lawyers is headed by managing partner Michael A. Kelly, partners Khaldoun Baghdadi, Doris Cheng, and Sara Peters and associate Andrew McDevitt, together with a supporting crew of dedicated paralegals and legal assistants.

We have a 60 year history of professionally serving our clients throughout the bay area. Our lawyers are consistently ranked by neutral rating services as the best of the best-check our ratings on BestLawyers.com and SuperLawyers.com. We recommend that potential clients check with lawyers and judges in Napa, Sonoma, Marin and San Francisco. Ask about our history track record ethics and integrity. Ask about our superior record of recovering money for our clients. Check out what our clients say about our professionalism and dedication on YELP. We are confident that clients who ask for referrals or confirmation from local lawyers and judges will be encouraged to work with our team.


Tubbs Fire Litigation Update
Atlas Peak Fire Litigation Update
Nuns Fire Litigation Update



When selecting a law firm to represent yourself and your family, you should choose a firm with experience, integrity and track record of success. The Walkup fire trial team has all those qualities. Members of the Walkup firm have close ties to the Sonoma and Napa valleys, with firm members and family members who have themselves sustained fire related losses in the October 2017 conflagration. We understand the issues that are confronting survivors including shock, vulnerability, emotional distress, loss of priceless personal property, loss of homes and businesses.

We have dealt with and sued insurance companies for more than 50 years. We have litigated against PG&E for more than 50 years. We understand the issues involved in preparing and trying cases that involve utility-caused electrical fires. We have been practicing in Northern California for more than half a century years and plan to be here for another 100 years. We understand the special relationship between attorney and client, and that for many clients the emotional distress that they have suffered as a result of their fire losses is more significant than the property losses.

Our initial consultation is free. We have structured our contingent legal fees to be lower than the majority of other firms advertising on radio or TV for clients.

If we cannot help you, or if we do not feel that you have a case we will tell you that. We will not file claims that do not have merit and we will not file claims on behalf of clients we do not believe will benefit from legal representation. Our ultimate goal is to try and restore our clients lives back to the condition they were in on October 7, 2017.

We understand how insurers think. We understand how to maximize your recovery.

Contact us online or call our firm at (415) 981-7210 for a free consultation with an attorney experienced in burn injury litigation.

“They were sensitive to our needs, professional in every manner, considerate, knowledgable, responsive, and quick to resolve our case out of court as well as secured a healthy settlement for us.” – Keith R.

Giving and Resources:

UndocuFund: http://undocufund.org/donate/

North Bay Fire Relief: https://www.redwoodcu.org/northbayfirerelief

Rebuild Wine Country: https://www.rebuildwinecountry.org/

Rebuild North Bay: https://www.rebuildnorthbay.org/

Salvation Army: http://deloro.salvationarmy.org/



The Napa Valley Community Foundation: click here.

American Red Cross Wildfire Relief Fund: click here.



Community Foundation of Sonoma: click here.

SHARE Emergency Housing: click here.

Sonoma County Animal Services: click here.



You Caring – Tubbs Fire Victims: click here.

BREAKING:  The Walkup Fire Team is also representing victims of the Thomas Fire and mudslides in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

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