With the January 2 trial date fast approaching, today’s case management conference before Judge Dylina lasted most of the day.

Punitive Damages Claim Won’t Be Split Off

PG&E asked the court to split off the issue of whether PG&E should pay punitive damages and save that issue for a second trial later next year. The judge denied PG&E’s request. He agreed with the plaintiffs’ lawyers that the issue of punitive damages should be presented along with all the other issues involved in the case to the jury that is empaneled in January. Nothing should be carved out from that trial and reserved for later.

Should the Judge Speak Personally to PG&E’s CEO about Settling the Cases?

The judge noted that PG&E’s chairman of the board, Tony Earley, has stated publicly that it is PG&E’s desire to settle the cases before trial. Yet, settlement discussions seem to have stalled. The judge noted that PG&E has not been complying with his order that requires PG&E to make a response to any plaintiff’s settlement demand 5 days before the settlement conference takes place. Instead, PG&E seems to be waiting until the day of the settlement conference to state its settlement position. Eighty percent of the cases remain unsettled.

The Settlement Judges have reported back to him that they are experiencing some frustration with the process. The judge is considering inviting Mr. Earley to appear in court, so that he can hear first-hand the judge’s thoughts on the importance of the cases and the seriousness of the punitive damages claims against PG&E. PG&E’s lawyers objected to Mr. Earley appearing in court, saying that they have already explained things to the CEO. The judge is going to mull over whether he will ask Mr. Earley to appear in court.

Too Many Motions in Limine

The judge will hear arguments on December 21 concerning what evidence should be kept out of the January trial. Hearings on such arguments are routine before every trial. In this case, however, thousands of pages of briefs have been filed. The volume of the briefing is overwhelming as, according to the judge, perhaps unnecessary. The lawyers are to meet and attempt to trim down the issues to be argued on December 21.

Lawyers Return to Court

Next Case Management Conference: December 11.