Natural Disasters

Two high-profile law firms file class action blaming utility company for deadly Camp Fire

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California National Guard photo.

Two law firms known for their class action practices have filed a new lawsuit that blames Pacific Gas and Electric Co. for the November fire that killed at least 88 people in Northern California and destroyed the town of Paradise.

The would-be class action was filed Wednesday in state court in San Francisco on behalf of seven named plaintiffs by the Edelson law firm and by Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein. It is among several suits that accuse PG&E of negligently maintaining its equipment. USA Today has coverage; a press release is here.

“PG&E’s failures ultimately resulted in the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history,” the suit says.

The fire known as the Camp Fire displaced thousands of people from their homes, and many are living in tents, shelters and their cars, according to the suit. The fire was caused by aging and unsafe electrical structure owned and improperly maintained by PG&E, the suit alleges.

“PG&E has continued to cut corners and put profits over safety and continued to operate dangerous equipment without adequate risk management controls in place,” the suit says.

The suit alleges negligence, inverse condemnation, trespass, private nuisance, premises liability, negligent interference with prospective economic advantage, violations of the California Public Utilities Code, and violations of the California Health & Safety Code.

One of the lawsuit plaintiffs, 71-year-old retiree Robert Eldridge, told USA Today that he has post-traumatic stress disorder from trying to flee the fire in gridlocked traffic.

“I had embers from the pine trees falling on my windshield burning hot,” Eldridge told the newspaper. “It took two hours to go 1 mile. I thought I would be burned alive.” Eldridge is currently staying at a Comfort Inn. He says drone footage shows his home and two barns have been destroyed.

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