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New Lawsuits Against PGE for Negligence in California Fires

Friday, February 16, 2018By Richard Alexander

The wildfires that raged across California in 2017 devastated areas of both Northern and Southern California. In Northern areas, 40 people died and more than 210,000 acres were destroyed as a result of the fires. Experts estimate that repairs will cost between $10 and $12 billion dollars.

Now a group of plaintiff’s attorneys have filed a lawsuit against PG&E Corporation and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) for injuries and damages resulting from the Northern California fires. The plaintiffs, who live in Tubbs, Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, and Butte Counties, claim that PG&E is responsible for the wildfires because they acted negligently. According to plaintiffs, the company’s electrical infrastructure came into contact with overgrown and badly maintained vegetation and ignited the fires. They also allege that PG&E’s infrastructure is poor and old. For example, PG&E maintains a system whereby a circuit breaking device periodically resets after being tripped. Many utilities in Southern California prohibit the use of these “reclosers” because of the potential for igniting wildfires.

According to the complaint, this negligent conduct resulted in the loss of human life and extensive property damage. The company’s lack of maintenance and faulty equipment exacerbated the damage caused by the wind-driven fires which were foreseeable to PG&E. Plaintiffs’ claims include wrongful death, personal injury, property damage, medical expenses, and lost wages.

The official cause of the fire has not yet been determined by the state’s Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention. The agency has not ruled out faulty electrical equipment as a possible cause. PG&E maintains that it complies with inspection requirements of its power lines and regulations for brush maintenance. PG&E even suggested that a third party’s power lines might have sparked the fires.

These claims have been rejected by plaintiffs who are concerned that PG&E has failed to be honest and transparent about the cause of the fires. The lawsuit seeks to force the company and investigators to release materials and documents that will provide clues as to the underlying cause of this destruction.

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