In his “California Personal Injury Law” article, Camp Fire Attorney Mike Danko explains why PG&E’s refusal to pay for the Tubbs fires may hold up wildfire claims. But he also points to a solution.
When PG&E initially filed for bankruptcy, the company stated that its liabilities for the 2017-2018 California wildfires reached at least $30 billion. PG&E has now proposed, however, that it will establish a $14 billion trust for wildfire claimants.
PG&E is trying to get away with not paying this extra $16 billion by claiming zero liability for the most costly of the 2017 fires; the Tubbs fire. Cal Fire determined that wires located on private property, not PG&E’s facilities, caused the Tubbs fires. While true, some still believe PG&E is at fault. Accoring to Mike Danko
Tubbs claimants, however, have a different view. Even if the Tubbs fire was ignited by power lines on private property — not by PG&E distribution lines — PG&E should still be held liable because the fire wouldn’t have started that night had PG&E turned off the power as it was supposed to. Therefore, PG&E should not be let off the hook for a mere $14 billion. Rather, its total bill is well over $30 billion, even using PG&E’s estimates.
This dispute must be resolved before PG&E can get out of bankruptcy. However, Danko states
The fire survivors argue that they will never come to an agreement with PG&E concerning the size of the trust fund that PG&E should establish unless and until the issue of PG&E’s liability for the Tubbs fire is decided.
The bankruptcy judge does not have the authority to decide whether PG&E is liable for the Tubbs fire, meaning this must be taken to federal or state trial court.
Mike Danko points out that cases often take years to reach trial in federal trial court. For this reason, the Nor Cal Fire Lawyers, in conjunction with others, are asking the bankruptcy judge to send several of the Tubbs fire cases back to state court in San Francisco, where the cases could be fast-tracked.
Once PG&E’s liability for the Tubbs fire is decided, PG&E, the claimants, and the bankruptcy judge will be better able to decide the size of the trust fund needed for PG&E to exit bankruptcy.
Danko concludes his article by explaining
The bankruptcy judge will hear arguments on July 24. He will likely decide that day or soon thereafter whether to send the eight cases to state trial court, or to federal trial court, or to do something else with them.
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.
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 “California Lawyer Attorney of the Year,” “Top Plaintiff Lawyers in California,” “Trial Lawyer of the Year,” and “Top Women Lawyers in Northern California,” among others.