Southern California Record

Friday, December 6, 2019

Attorney: Victims of wildfire are optimistic that utility will be found liable for Woolsey fire

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By Chris Adams | Nov 19, 2019

Lasuperiorcourt
All current and future Woolsey Fire cases will be coordinated in Los Angeles Superior Court. | Author-John O' Neill; GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 only

LOS ANGELES – Plaintiffs in the Woolsey fire case are confident that the utility Southern Edison California will be found responsible for the 2018 calamity.

“We’re very confident that we’ll be able to hold Southern California Edison company liable for all of the damage to the victims of the Woolsey fire,” said attorney Alexander Robertson IV, who is representing the plaintiffs.

The cataclysmic fire killed three people, leveled more than 1,600 structures and caused billions of dollars in property damage.

Robertson’s firm represents approximately 480 plaintiffs in the Woolsey Fire JCCP No. 5000 coordinated proceedings. He filed and argued the petition for coordination, which resulted in all pending and future cases arising from the Woolsey fire to be synchronized in Los Angeles Superior Court.

“It’s going to be a long process, so I think they (victims) read the media reports that Edison recently disclosed to the SEC and their shareholders that they’ve seen a redacted version of the investigation report which concludes that Edison’s electrical equipment was the cause of the Woolsey fire,” Robertson said. “So I think they’re encouraged by that information.”

Pedro Pizarro, the president and CEO of Edison International, said in an October statement that an investigative report conducted by the Ventura County Fire Department concluded that Edison's electrical equipment was the cause of the fire.

“Absent additional evidence, SCE (Southern California Edison) believes it is likely that its equipment was associated with the ignition of the Woolsey fire,” Pizarro stated.

A judge ordered that the official investigation report not be released to the public because of an ongoing criminal investigation by the state attorney general’s office.

Currently, California applies the standard of inverse condemnation with a strict liability, which does not require plaintiffs to prove fault and does not allow the government to appropriate private property without just compensation.

California utility Pacific Gas & Electric was held liable under this standard resulting in its filing for bankruptcy due to its culpability in several devastating northern California fires.

“Edison, along with all of the utilities in California, have been fighting inverse condemnation for over a decade and they’ve been unsuccessful in every court,” Robertson said.

California appellate courts have twice before applied inverse condemnation to cases involving Edison and its equipment igniting fires, he said.

Robertson said he doesn’t feel Edison will seek bankruptcy protection like PG&E in its liability for damages but that could be one fire away from changing.

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Organizations in this Story

California Attorney GeneralLos Angeles Superior CourtSo. California Edison

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