The Fire Victim Trust (FVT) announced today that it has filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court against certain former officers and directors of PG&E Corporation and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) for their role in causing the catastrophic 2017 North Bay Fires and the 2018 Camp Fire. The Fire Victim Trust retained the right to bring suit as part of the 2020 settlement between the fire victims and PG&E.
The lawsuit, John Trotter, Trustee of the PG&E Fire Victim Trust v. Lewis Chew, et al., San Francisco Superior Case No. CGC-18-572326, alleges that the wildfires were a direct result of the defendants’ breach of their fiduciary duties to act in the best interests of PG&E. The North Bay Fires and Camp Fire killed over 100 people, injured many more, and damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes.
"It is our duty to hold accountable the prior officers and directors who grossly neglected to do their jobs in the lead-up to the North Bay Fires and the Camp Fire. These individuals had the responsibility to customers, employees, shareholders, and the public to ensure that safety was one of PG&E’s highest priorities. They had the power to do so. Yet they failed, at enormous financial cost to the company and indescribable cost to entire Northern California communities," said Hon. Justice John K. Trotter (ret.), Trustee of the FVT. "In my role as the individual appointed by the court to oversee the compensation of Fire Victims, I have a legal and ethical obligation to ensure they receive every dollar they are entitled to," said Justice Trotter.
Frank Pitre, of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP, who is serving as co-lead counsel for the FVT said: "Tens of thousands of people have needlessly suffered because PG&E’s former officers and directors failed to adopt robust policies and procedures for vegetation management or provide oversight of PG&E’s aging transmission tower infrastructure. Until now they have not been called to account for their conduct that resulted in tremendous harm to the fire victims."
The Complaint alleges the following circumstances leading to the 2017 North Bay Fires and the 2018 Camp Fire:
At the time of the North Bay Fires, the defendants had not installed and implemented a power shutoff system as was used by other utilities. This system was needed because, after years of PG&E failing to maintain a vegetation management program, in windy weather trees were making contact with the distribution lines and causing fires. By 2017, PG&E was six years behind on its vegetation management program, and the only way to prevent fires was to shut the power off. In addition to lacking such a system and not keeping vegetation properly trimmed and maintained, defendants also failed to take other measures to prevent wildfire risks.
The Camp Fire was the result of defendants’ failure to ensure that aging equipment was detected and replaced as part of PG&E’s transmission inspection program. Specifically, a "C -hook" mounted on a transmission tower that was more than 100 years old failed which ignited a fire.
The Fire Victim Trust seeks monetary damages, and injunctive or declaratory relief necessary to reform PG&E’s corporate governance.
In addition to Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP, the FVT is represented in this matter by co-counsel Bottini & Bottini, Inc.; Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger; Dreyer, Babich, Bucchola, Wood, Campora LLP; and Corey, Luzaich, De Ghetaldi & Riddle LLP.
About the Fire Victim Trust
Under the direction of the Trustee, the Honorable John K. Trotter (Ret.) and the Claims Administrator Cathy Yanni, the Fire Victim Trust provides an efficient and equitable process to compensate Fire Victims for both economic and non-economic damages caused by these fires, including destruction or damage to real estate and personal property, additional living expenses, lost wages, business losses, emotional distress, personal injury and death. For more information, visit FireVictimTrust.com
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