PG&E is accused of trying to dodge wildfire responsibilities

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PG&E is accused of trying to dodge wildfire responsibilities

PG&E was accused on Monday of attempting to dodge potential liabilities in a lethal Wine Country inferno, at a time when fire victims must wrestle with two separate deadlines to file claims related to a series of deadly blazes.

The utility — a convicted felon for federal crimes it committed before and after a fatal gas explosion in San Bruno — is under fire because of the company’s attempts to convince a U.S. bankruptcy judge to predict how a jury would determine PG&E’s liability for a catastrophic Wine Country conflagration in 2017 known as the Tubbs Fire.

“What is going on here is PG&E is once again attempting to avoid responsibility for its fires and its actions,” said Robert Julian, an attorney with the Baker Hostetler law firm, which is representing fire victims with potential claims before the bankruptcy court. PG&E filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January to attempt to reorganize its shattered finances.

A liability claim against a corporation can frequently be resolved in a state court, sometimes with a jury trial. In this case, PG&E wants the judge who is supervising the company’s $51.69 billion bankruptcy case to predict the liability a hypothetical jury would determine in the Tubbs Fire disaster.

In January, state fire investigators announced the Tubbs Fire was caused by a malfunction of private equipment at a residence in the Napa County town of Calistoga. The fire eventually engulfed part of Sonoma County, roared through Santa Rosa and killed 22 people.

However, attorneys for Tubbs Fire victims believe they can present evidence that shows the power was out at the residence prior to the start of the blaze at that location, which they hope to show a jury, depending on the bankruptcy court’s decision. That evidence could shift the blame back to PG&E.

San Francisco-based PG&E noted Monday that the Cal Fire official written report regarding the Tubbs Fire concluded that PG&E facilities didn’t cause the inferno.

“The Chapter 11 process will support the orderly, fair and expeditious resolution of PG&E’s potential liabilities resulting from wildfires,” PG&E spokeswoman Kristi Jourdan said in comments emailed to this news organization. “To that end, we recommend that all wildfire claims remain as part of the bankruptcy process.”

Separately, fire victims were reminded of two key — and fast-approaching — deadlines that they must meet in order to ensure that their inferno-related claims are properly filed.

The second deadline is in connection with a new state Wildfire Assistance Program, which has a filing deadline of Nov. 15, 2019. People can find more information at the www.norcalwildfireassistanceprogram.com/ web page.

The Wildfire Assistance Program is bolstered by a court-approved fund designed to provide financial assistance to victims of the 2017 and 2018 wildfires. PG&E has provided $100 million to fund disbursements to help fire victims with urgent needs.

“We encourage all victims who were displaced by the 2017 and 2018 wildfires to submit a claim, but submitting a claim for relief through this wildfire relief fund does not also count as a claim for full compensation with the bankruptcy court,” said Michael Carlson, a wildfire victim and a member of the wildfire victims claims committee set up by the bankruptcy court. “Two separate claims must be filed.”

 

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By |2019-08-15T11:31:43-07:00August 13th, 2019|News, Paradise, PG&E|0 Comments

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