Is PG&E Trying to Get Out of Liability for Wine Country Fires?
PG&E has been facing a lot of heat for last month’s deadly wildfires in the wine country that claimed 43 lives and burned down nearly 10,000 structures. So far, there have been several reports that the utility’s lines sparked the catastrophic fires. According to a Los Angeles Times report, the utility company has stated in a court filing that the wildfires may have been started by electrical equipment not owned or installed by PG&E. The company is saying that its own preliminary investigation suggests a private power line may have started the blaze.
Although the cause of the fire that decimated a Santa Rosa neighborhood has not been determined, preliminary investigations suggest that this fire may have been caused by electrical equipment that was owned, installed and maintained by a third party, PG&E wrote in a court filing. The utility did not name the third party but referenced a location in neighboring Napa County that investigators from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection have zeroed in on as they try to determine the cause of the blaze.
Lawsuits Against PG&E
So far, at least 15 wildfire-related lawsuits have been filed against PG&E. The utility company made the court filing in response to those lawsuits but gave no supporting evidence other than referring to an electric incident report that the utility submitted to state regulators on Nov. 2 in which it documented 10 cases in Sonoma and Napa counties of toppled trees, downed power lines and other damaged equipment.
There have been other fires for which PG&E has been held liable by state authorities. Earlier this year, the California Public Utilities Commission fined PG&E $8.3 million for failing to maintain a power line that triggered a massive fire in 2015 in Amador County that destroyed 549 homes and killed two people. A state fire investigation found the utility and its contractors failed to maintain a pine tree that fell onto a power line, igniting the fire.
As California personal injury lawyers, we will be closely following this critical investigation of an incident that had an impact and continues to have an impact on so many people’s lives. This was probably one of the most catastrophic fires in the state’s history. If PG&E’s negligence caused or contributed to these fires, the utility company should be penalized and they should be held financially responsible for the injuries, damages and losses caused.