SANTA ROSA, CA (December 7, 2019) – Trial law firms Bridgford, Gleason & Artinian, McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP and Frantz Law Group, APLC were among a group of attorneys who have secured a $13.5 billion settlement from Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) to compensate victims of wildfires caused by the utility company’s equipment between 2015-2018. The trio of law firms represent more than 5,500 victims of the Wine Country/North Bay Fires in November 2017, the Camp/Paradise Fire in November 2018 and assorted wildfires, and are among a select group of 13 firms representing more than 50,000 plaintiffs combined on inverse condemnation, negligence and wrongful death lawsuits against PG&E.
“PG&E’s bankruptcy required a delicate balance between achieving our goal of compensating wildfire victims and deterring any future bad behavior that could cause more wildfires, while ensuring the utility company remains functional and keeps power flowing to California residents,” said Richard Bridgford, partner at Bridgford, Gleason & Artinian. “This settlement achieves both.”
“The lawsuit, which the victims courageously pursued, has forever changed PG&E’s corporate compliance,” said Patrick McNicholas, partner at McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP. “In order for PG&E to exit bankruptcy and obtain court and governor approval by its June 2020 deadline, the utility company must demonstrate that it is financially viable and will be capable of adopting the safety protocols to prevent future fires as set forth in Assembly Bill 1054. We believe this settlement accomplishes that.”
“We’re very happy with this resolution for our clients,” said James Frantz, CEO of Frantz Law Group, APLC. “Normally these cases take longer than two years to resolve and they don’t involve the mass tort claims of over 50,000 victims. This settlement will finally allow wildfire victims to rebuild.”
The devastating Camp/Paradise Fire that started on November 8, 2018, is the deadliest wildfire in California history which claimed the lives of at least 85 individuals, destroyed more than 500 businesses and nearly 19,000 homes, leaving thousands homeless.
The Wine Country/North Bay Fires, individually known as the Tubbs, Pocket, Atlas, Nuns and Patrick Fires were a series of 250 wildfires that ignited on November 7, 2017 and became the second most destructive wildfire in California history (after the Camp/Paradise Fire) having burned at least 245,000 acres that caused more than $10 billion in damages.
PG&E filed for bankruptcy on January 29, 2019. In November 2019, a bankruptcy judge ruled against PG&E’s challenge to California’s inverse condemnation law, leaving it liable for property damage from fires caused by its equipment. As part of PG&E’s bankruptcy proceedings, the utility company must demonstrate that it is financially viable and will be capable of adopting the safety protocols set forth in Assembly Bill 1054 by June 2020.
Assembly Bill 1054 was passed as urgency legislation in July 2019 and created additional safety oversight and processes for utility infrastructure, recast recovery of costs from wildfire damages to third-parties, and authorized an electrical corporation and ratepayer jointly funded Wildfire Fund to address future related wildfire liabilities.
On December 6, 2019, PG&E reached an agreement to payout $13.5 billion to settle claims arising from the Butte Fire in 2015, the Ghost Ship Fire in 2016, the Wine Country/North Bay Fires in 2017 and the Camp/Paradise Fire in 2018, subject to bankruptcy court approval.
PG&E also extended the deadline for wildfire victims who were impacted by these fires to submit a claim to receive compensation from the settlement until December 31, 2019. The settlement requires approval by the United States Bankruptcy Court, and a court hearing is scheduled for December 20, 2019.