CHICO, CA – Danko Meredith, Gibbs Law Group, and Corey, Luzaich, de Ghetaldi & Riddle, a coalition of law firms known as Northern California Fire Lawyers, today filed a lawsuit on behalf of several Camp Fire survivors who suffered injuries and lost their homes and businesses as a result of the region’s wildfires, which began on November 8, 2018.  The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that PG&E was negligent in failing to maintain its infrastructure and properly inspect and manage its power transmission lines, the failure of which ultimately caused the Camp Fire to ignite on Pulga Road near Paradise, California.

 

Specifically, the plaintiffs assert that PG&E has a long history of safety lapses that have caused injury and death to California residents, and destroyed their property, including the 2017 Northern California Wine Country Fires, the 2015 Butte Fires, and at least 15 other fires/ explosions in the past 25 years.  However, despite its abysmal track record and knowledge of significant safety issues posing immediate threats to California residents, the company failed to take proper precautions to prevent future disasters.

 

“Northern California families and communities deserve so much better than this,” said Mike Danko, one of the lead attorneys representing Camp Fire victims against PG&E.  “PG&E’s continued and repeated disregard for safety, and its inability to adequately maintain its equipment cannot be tolerated.   Camp Fire victims have suffered unnecessarily, and they deserve justice.”

 

“Our team of Northern California Fire Lawyers has successfully taken on PG&E in wildfire cases, including the 2015 Butte Fire cases, and we currently represent victims of the 2017 Northern California fires,” said Amanda Riddle.  “We are committed to using our unique knowledge and experience to hold PG&E accountable on behalf of those affected by the Camp Fire.”

 

Individuals and businesses that were affected, injured, or suffered damage from the Camp Fire and would like to learn more about their legal rights in the Camp Fire PG&E Lawsuits may contact our team at 530-208-3062.  Our attorneys are providing free consultations to anyone affected by the Camp Fire.  We pride ourselves on being there for our clients at every stage of the litigation, providing help and legal assistance in the immediate aftermath of the fire, all the way through settlement.

 

About Northern California Fire Lawyers

Northern California Fire Lawyers is a team of more than 30 attorneys from a coalition of three Northern California law firms: Corey, Luzaich, de Ghetaldi & Riddle, Danko Meredith and Gibbs Law Group.  Collectively, our fire lawyers have more experience investigating and bringing claims against PG&E than any law firm in California.  Our attorneys have been appointed by California judges to leadership positions in some of the largest fire and disaster cases, including the Butte Fire Cases, 2017 PG&E Fire Cases, and San Bruno Explosion lawsuits.

 

Our attorneys currently represent over 200 families who are victims of the 2015 Butte Fire that devastated over 70,000 acres.  We have earned hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for our clients, and members of our team have been honored for their work with numerous awards, including “Top Plaintiff Lawyers in California,” “Trial Lawyer of the Year,” and “Top Women Lawyers in Northern California,” among others.

 

Camp Fire Complaint – Filed

PG&E asked Judge Curtis Karnow to send the various fire victims’ lawsuits to five different counties.  Instead, Judge Karnow decided that all cases that have been filed — or that will be filed — as a result of the Nor Cal fires will be handled by one judge and that judge will be in San Francisco.   Judge Karnow concluded that having one judge hear all the cases made the most sense because all the fire cases involve common issues.  Those issues include:  "PG&E’s policies and practices, including those regarding (a) the electrification of lines during high wind conditions, (b) the sorts of maintenance required of vegetation and of lines and poles; (c) training practices that apply to the multiple PG&E inspectors responsible for various types of maintenance."   

The question that remains is who the judge will be. That will be for the California Judicial Council to decide.  But if past fire cases are any indication, it is likely the cases will be assigned to the same judge who decided that they should be coordinated in the first place — in this case Judge Karnow.  

This week the Sacramento County judge who is responsible for overseeing the thousands of cases arising from the Butte Fire ruled that PG&E must pay property owners for the damage the fire caused.  

The first cases will be going to trial on August 11.  The order means that the issue for the jury will not be whether PG&E should pay the fire’s victims, but rather how much.

 

Ruling on Submitted Matter Inverse Condemnation Motions Signed 06-22-17 by Mike Danko on Scribd

Chris Chandler, age 62, was hit by a car and killed crossing El Camino in Atherton.  The driver said he never saw Chris. The police blamed Chris for riding his bike into traffic without looking. 

We proved that Chris was killed because the crosswalk was essentially invisible to oncomingChandler Family motorists and that Caltrans should never have installed it.  On Monday, a jury awarded Chris’ family $9.5 million, holding the California Department of Transportation 90% at fault for Chris’ death, and finding Chris blameless. 

Marked crosswalks in uncontrolled intersections give pedestrians a false sense of security — pedestrians believe that vehicles will yield to them in the crosswalk when, in fact, the drivers of the vehicles may be unable to see the pedestrians due to surrounding traffic  . . . Caltrans was aware of studies discouraging the marking of crosswalks in busy uncontrolled intersections and was aware of accidents elsewhere along El Camino. . .

According to Caltrans’ witnesses, there are 28 other crosswalks on El Camino in San Mateo county that are just like the one where Chandler was killed.  Caltrans knows that they are all dangerous but, as a matter of policy, won’t fix any particular crosswalk until it learns of at least three people who are killed or injured at the intersection in question.  Although there had been numerous accidents where Chandler was killed, the statistics never made it into Caltrans database.

Local authorities all along El Camino have pleaded with Caltrans to fix the crosswalks, but Caltrans refuses to act.  We’re hoping that Caltrans will hear the jury’s message and fix the crosswalks now before someone else is killed.

 

Study – Safety Effects of Marked Versus Unmarked – 2005 by mikedanko on Scribd

Today Cal Fire issued a news release.  Cal Fire investigators determine the cause of the destructive Butte Fire was the PG&E power line.  Cal Fire will file a lawsuit against PG&E to recover over $90 million for firefighting costs.

Property owners and renters in the Butte Fire area are working with attorneys to calculate the damages to their property.  Potential damages include: loss of use, loss of enjoyment, loss of value, and destruction of homes, trees and fences.  More victims of the Butte Fire join the lawsuits every day.

In February 2015, tree cutters working for PG&E were supposed to remove trees from a grove that threatened power lines.  But they left standing a tree in the middle of that grove – a 44-foot tall grey pine that had a diameter of about 5 inches at the base that was leaning toward the lines. Over the following months, the tree leaned further and further until, on September 9, 2015,  it made contact with one of the lines and sparked the disastrous Butte Fire.  

The tree itself was not burned in the fire. CalFire crews cut it down, sectioned it into 6 pieces, and have stored it, along with the wire it contacted, in an evidence locker at CalFire’s headquarters.  

On a misty morning on February 17, 2016, experts, PG&E’s lawyers and insurers, and the Butte Trial Lawyers were allowed to view,scorched tip photograph, and weigh the tree. Nobody was really sure why the tree was being weighed five months after the fire, but that’s what PG&E’s insurance companies wanted to do.  The photo to the right shows the scorched tip of the tree where it came in contact with the wire.

While the wire was being inspected and photographed under a microscope, a huge gust of wind scattered a stack of coolers

Tree falls onto wires during inspectionacross the parking lot. Then there was a loud “boom" and the lights went out. One of the experts, an electrical engineer, immediately identified the noise as a power line circuit breaker blowing.

Several lawyers and experts walked down the driveway to the CalFire headquarters to the road. About 150 feet up the road, this is what they saw – a tree that had blown down onto a power line and shorted it out. PG&E’s chief lawyer was on the phone immediately to PG&E to send a crew. It only took them 45 minutes to show up. Meanwhile, the  tree started smoking! 

All this time PG&E has been claiming it has taken adequate steps to trim trees so as to protect its power lines.  And then this, with PG&E’s lawyers and insurers all as witnesses.  So you decide: Coincidence or something more?

-Dario DeGhetaldi