A Huntington Beach restaurant owner who suffered severe burns and brain damage when an underground transformer exploded during an Oktoberfest celebration last fall is suing Southern California Edison.
Bernie Bischof, owner of Old World German Restaurant, filed the negligence lawsuit Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleging the utility created a "death trap" that nearly killed him and injured some of his family members when a fireball erupted on the patio of his restaurant Oct. 5 in the middle of a crowded celebration.
An SCE representative declined to specifically comment on the suit, which seeks unspecified damages.
However, company spokesman Robert Villegas, said, "Our thoughts go out to Mr. Bischof and his family. While Southern California Edison is aware of the lawsuit that was filed by Mr. Bischof in relation to the incident that took place in October 2019 in Huntington Beach at the Old World German Restaurant, SCE cannot discuss the specifics of pending litigation."
The lawsuit faults the utility for not doing proper maintenance.
"Despite the well-known risks associated with underground transformers, including the risk of catastrophic explosion, SCE failed to properly maintain, inspect, repair and replace (an) underground transformer vault -- doing nothing to prevent a massive transformer explosion," the suit alleges.
Bischof suffered second- and third-degree burns over nearly half of his body and required multiple skin graft procedures to repair much of the damaged tissue that extended from his head to the bottom of his legs, according to his court papers.
The blast also caused Bischof significant brain damage and permanent cognitive deficits that will not improve for the 60-year-old single father, whose wife died of cancer in 2017, and also makes him more susceptible to developing dementia, according to the suit.
"This is the new harsh reality for Bernie, who is left to worry about his future, about who will care for his sons and if he will become a burden on his boys as he ages,'' the suit states.
Also suing are four members of Bischof's family who were injured in the incident: Markus Bischof, his son; Josef Bischof, his father; Cyndie Kasko, his sister; and Jason Kasko, his brother-in-law.
"Sadly, the transformer explosion was preventable," the suit alleges. "It resulted from years of shoddy maintenance, cursory and ineffective visual inspections and a refusal to upgrade aging equipment, practices that reflect SCE' s company-wide policy of placing profits over public safety."