Huge areas of Northern California were devastated in October of 2017 when a series of over two hundred wildfires ignited and raged over six counties. These fires burned hundreds of thousands of acres of land, destroyed almost 9,000 structures, and took the lives of nearly 50 people. These were the most destructive fires in the state’s history, and the deadliest in a century.
Law firms from across the country have filed lawsuits against PG&E, alleging that the utility’s equipment and practices caused these destructive fires. These cases have been consolidated in San Francisco Superior Court, where Judge Curtis Karnow appointed Michael Kelly and Khaldoun Baghdadi of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger as Co-lead Counsel and Co-liaison Counsel respectively for the Individual Plaintiffs. Our firm, a pillar of the San Francisco plaintiffs’ bar for six decades, has a long and successful history of obtaining compensation for those injured by utilities – PG&E in particular. PG&E has a long and notorious history of shouldering the blame for some of the costliest and deadliest disasters in California history.
PG&E Sets Aside $2 Billion for Wildfire Settlement – Still Avoids Responsibility
To date, CAL FIRE has issued reports identifying the causes of sixteen of the October fires. In each and every report, CAL FIRE assessed PG&E equipment as the cause of the fires. CAL FIRE has already referred some of these reports to local district attorneys for potential criminal prosecution. In its recent earnings report to investors, PG&E announced that it would record a $2.5 billion liability against earnings in order to account for their exposure to civil liability for these fires.
While they acknowledge to their investors that they will likely be held legally responsible for the fires, they are doing everything they can do avoid responsibility. PG&E has taken this fight to Sacramento, where it is expending great resources to lobby for changes to the law to diminish the constitutional rights of Californians. These protections ensure that individuals do not bear the brunt of disasters, and that utilities that operate dangerous equipment are properly incentivized to do all they can to prevent wildfires and other disasters that only they can prevent. Our firm has joined with others in the litigation to push back against PG&E’s attempts to take away our rights.