At least nine plaintiffs have banded together to file a class action lawsuit against Southern California Edison alleging that the utility sparked the biggest wildfire in the state’s modern history. According to an ABC news report, the lawsuit alleges that the Thomas Fire, which burned in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in December, could have been prevented “had SCE acted responsibly.”
The massive wildfire burned about 281,893 acres and wasn’t fully contained until Jan. 12. By Dec. 22, the Thomas Fire had cost more than $177 million to fight, forced over 104,607 residents to evacuate, destroyed at least 1,063 structures and damaged 280 others. This was documented as the seventh-most destructive wildfire in California’s history and the largest wildfire in modern California history.
Lawsuit Alleges Negligence
The class action lawsuit alleges that the utility company displayed negligence by performing construction near a facility in an unsafe manner causing the vegetation to catch fire. It also failed to maintain its overhead electric and communications facilities in a safe manner and did not remove trees or vegetation around its utility poles, the lawsuit stated.
The complaint specifically names Ventura City and Casitas Municipal Water District as defendants for failing to have working generators on hand that could have aided with water pressure. The lawsuit states that for some “inexplicable reason” the city did not have properly functioning backup generators that prevented water pressure to be supplied to fire hydrants in the hillside neighborhoods and canyons of Ventura. The lawsuit is seeking unspecified monetary damages.
Responsibility of Utility Companies
Edison is not the first utility companies to be linked with causing some of the most devastating fires. A downed PG&E power line is also believed to have caused the catastrophic October 2017 Northern California firestorm that killed at least 44 people and hospitalized about 185. Utility companies have a duty to act responsibly by maintaining their infrastructure and clearing brush around transformers, poles and other equipment that could spark a fire.
In such cases, victims or their families may choose to file individual lawsuits or band together and file a class action lawsuit, depending on the nature and circumstances and the extent of the loss. An experienced California class action lawyer will be able to advise victims and their families regarding their legal rights and options.