3 Families File Suits Against Utility in Wake of NorCal Fire - NBC Southern California

3 Families File Suits Against Utility in Wake of NorCal Fire

Three families joined 12 other victims on Friday in suing the San Francisco-based utility company for what their legal team calls "gross negligence" on the part of PG&E when it comes to maintaining its equipment and for allowing vegetation and trees to gr

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    More victims of the destructive Northern California wildfires are joining a legal battle against PG&E. Robert Handa reports. (Published Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017)

    More victims of the destructive Northern California wildfires are joining a legal battle against electric utility PG&E.

    Lawsuits are mounting after the fires, which ignited on the night of Oct. 8 and are 100 percent contained as of this week, killed 43 people, burned nearly 6,200 homes, wiped out 2,000 outbuildings and destroyed about 150 commercial buildings.

    Three families joined 12 other victims on Friday in suing the San Francisco-based utility company for what their legal team calls "gross negligence" on the part of PG&E when it comes to maintaining its equipment and for allowing vegetation and trees to grow too close to power lines.

    "For these people, the damages are that they lost everything – their houses, their personal property," said attorney Mary Alexander outside San Francisco Superior Court, adding that photographs and family heirlooms can never be replaced.

    Added to that, Alexander said, "There's also the trauma ... the emotional toll, the mental anguish of escaping with their lives."

    One of the plaintiffs, Nemesio Ruiz, said he and his family fled for their lives when flames threatened their Redwood Valley home in Mendocino County on the first day of the fires.

    There was "fire all over the place," he said, which was "very scary."

    "My kids are devastated because they lost everything ... and we're looking for justice," Ruiz said.

    He echoed Alexander's viewpoint, saying that PG&E's downed power lines could have sparked the deadly inferno.

    "We are certain that this is the cause and that it will be, eventually, the official cause," Alexander said.

    Alexander is also the designated attorney – or liaison counsel – to the plaintiffs in the Ghost Ship fire that killed 36 people in Oakland on Dec. 2, 2016. In that case too, she blames PG&E.

    "We are suing PG&E for the Ghost Fire and it's the same thing," she stressed. "They're not maintaining their lines."

    In a statement to NBC Bay Area, PG&E wrote: "Nothing is more important to us than the safety and well-being of our customers and communities we serve. Our thoughts are with everyone impacted by these devastating wildfires.

    "We are aware that lawsuits have been filed. Beyond that, we’re going to be focused on doing everything we can to help these communities rebuild and recover."