PG&E Fire Legal Liability
PG&E Could Face Murder or Manslaughter Charges in Camp Fire
A state filing from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra says PG&E could face murder or manslaughter charges if a court finds that its actions caused any recent fatal fires, including the Camp Fire that killed at least 88 people. If the utility’s actions are found to be malicious—including its actions regarding operating or maintaining its equipment—PG&E could face the most serious charges. Any charges, however, would likely be filed by district attorneys in the county and not by the state.
PG&E has admitted its equipment may have ignited the Camp Fire, which quickly became the largest and deadliest wildfire ever in California history. If the company did not act maliciously but did act recklessly or negligently, it could face lesser felony charges.
There is also the potential for PG&E to face charges from 2017’s wildfires. In 2018, Cal Fire issued the results of its investigation into several of the wildfires, alerting various counties that PG&E likely violated state laws in 12 of the fires. Local prosecutors in those counties—including Sonoma, Napa, Yuba, Nevada, Lake, Humboldt, and Butte—will now decide whether they should file criminal charges against PG&E. As of Dec. 31, 2018, none of the counties has filed charges, but some asked the state attorney general to review the situation.
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Cal Fire is still investigating the Camp Fire. Charges in any of the wildfires could prove disastrous for the utility as its current probation following San Bruno includes a prohibition against any criminal activity.
In addition to possible criminal charges, PG&E faces civil lawsuits from residents whose homes were destroyed and from nine counties affected by the California wildfires.
Camp Fire and the Destruction of the Town of Paradise
Paradise was devastated when The Camp Fire wildfire enveloped the town forcing all 21,000+ residents to flee for their lives. Tragically many people died, at this time 42 victims have been found. The nearby town of Chico has been set up as an emergency shelter point.
PG&E is allegedly at fault given their statement put out on their website in the hours after the fire broke out.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. says it experienced a problem on an electrical transmission line near the site of a massive fire in Butte County minutes before the blaze broke out.
The company said in a one-paragraph summary filed Thursday with state utility regulators that it had experienced an outage on the line about 15 minutes before the fire started
Contact us at 888-285-3333 to schedule a no-obligation consultation. Our California fire attorneys will discuss your situation with you, advise you of your rights, and answer any questions you have about fire damage legal liability.
Federal Judge Demands Explanation from PG&E
U.S. District Judge William Alsup issued a written order to PG&E demanding the utility explain if it played any role in the Camp Fire or other California wildfires. The written order was issued as part of Judge Alsup’s role overseeing PG&E’s probation related to the San Bruno pipeline explosion. As part of that probation, the company is prohibited from committing further crimes.
In the order, Judge Alsup asked whether “reckless operation or maintenance of PG&E power lines” caused the Camp Fire or any California wildfires since the probation was first ordered in January 2017. PG&E previously disclosed that its transmission line experienced an issue in the moments before the Camp Fire was first reported. Cal Fire already cited PG&E for its role in the October 2017 wine county fires.
The probation order was issued following the San Bruno explosion in which eight people died and 58 were injured. Along with five years’ probation, PG&E was ordered to pay $3 million in fines and perform thousands of hours of community service.
The California fires have had catastrophic consequences for those who were affected. With more than 40 people killed in the fires and thousands of homes destroyed or damaged—including in the Atlas fire, Nuns fire, Pocket fire, and Tubbs fire—the aftermath of the wildfires will be felt for a long time.
Reports have emerged that PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric), a utility company, may have been negligent in allowing some of the fires to start.
Utility companies like PG&E have a legal responsibility to ensure their gas and electric lines are properly maintained and kept in good condition to keep residents of Santa Rosa and Sonoma safe.
Furthermore, it is their duty ensure anything that might infringe on those lines, such as vegetation, is cut back so as not to pose a danger to people or property.
Unfortunately, utility companies frequently violate those duties as a way of increasing profits, putting the lives and property of residents at risk.
If it is shown that a utility company’s negligence or wrongdoing caused the California fires, people who suffered personal injury, property damage, or emotional distress as a result of the fires could be eligible to file a fire damage lawsuit against the company responsible.
Individuals, whose loved ones have died because of the Napa fires are eligible to file wrongful death lawsuits to recover damages linked to the loss of their loved ones.
Companies who put profits ahead of people must be held accountable for the damage they cause. Cutter Law P.C. is dedicated to ensuring those who are affected by the wildfires receive justice.
California Fire Liability
Downed power lines may have started some of the devastating California wildfires that have destroyed homes and taken more than 40 lives. Calls to emergency responders indicate that power lines fell and transformers exploded starting around 9:20 p.m. on the night some fires started.
Although PG&E claimed its equipment failed in “hurricane strength winds” reports indicate that while winds were high, they were not hurricane strength.
Under California law, power lines must be able to withstand at least 56 mile-per-hour winds. In some areas where power lines fell, the winds only peaked at 32 miles-per-hour, while in other areas they peaked at 41 miles-per-hour. Those winds are well below state law requirements and far below the 74 mile-per-hour requirement to be classified as hurricane strength.
Among the damages that can be recovered if a utility is found to have California fire liability:
- Personal injury (such as burns or other bodily injuries caused by the fire)
- Property damage (including damage caused by ash or soot)
- Wrongful death
- Loss of business income
Attorneys at Cutter Law P.C. have fought for the rights of thousands of residents of California, protecting their rights against insurance companies, medical manufacturers, and other parties that acted illegally and unethically. We have the experience and expertise to fight against large companies with unlimited resources—and are skilled at litigating in court and negotiating out-of-court settlements.
We are also experienced in filing lawsuits against insurance companies if they engage in bad faith tactics or wrongfully refuse to cover your losses.
Our fire attorneys are dedicated to ensuring you receive the full compensation you’re entitled to. If you live in Paradise or the surrounding areas and have suffered damages as a result of the California fires, you may be able to file a lawsuit against those responsible for recovering your losses.
Contact us at 916-461-8085 to schedule a no-obligation consultation. Our California fire attorneys will discuss your situation with you, advise you of your rights, and answer any questions you have about fire damage legal liability.