Butte County Camp Fire Victims Sued PG&E over Alleged Negligence

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Camp Fire
Search and rescue workers are looking for human remains at a trailer park burnt by the Camp Fire. Credits: AP/John Locher

Butte County Camp Fire victims sued PG&E Corporation alleging that the utility company was negligent for failing to inspect, maintain, repair, or replace its infrastructure and power lines.

In the lawsuit, the victims through their lawyers argued that PG&E “contributed to the cause of the Camp Fire” because of its “inexcusable behavior.”

They noted that the 2013 Liberty Report found that the utility company’s “distribution system present significant safety issues.” The report recommended that “PG&E treat aging infrastructure as an enterprise-level risk.”

According to the complainants, PG&E made public statements that it was treating wildfires as an enterprise-level risk following the release of the 2013 Liberty Report. However, they argued that the utility company used unscientific and invalid statistical methodology to evaluate the severity of the risk. As a result, it “failed to appropriately evaluate the frequency and severity of the risk posed by wildfires.”

Plaintiffs alleged that PG&E’s “corporate culture is the root cause of the Camp Fire”

“PG&E’s failure to treat us aging infrastructure as an enterprise-level risk in a reasonable manner contributed to the cause of the Camp Fire,” according to the complainants.

Furthermore, they noted that PG&E’s history of implementing a “run to failure” approach is well-documented. They believe that this attitude contributed to the cause of the Camp Fire.

Moreover, they alleged that the utility company’s “corporate culture is the root cause of the Camp Fire. According to them, for years, PG&E has been the subject of fines, penalties, and convictions due to its failure to comply with safety regulations.

Despite all of these, the utility company “continues to display a shocking degree of arrogant complacency, refuses to modify its behavior…and continues to conduct its business with a conscious disregard for the safety of the public including plaintiffs.”

They are seeking unspecified amount to cover their losses including lost homes, properties, personal belongings, wages, business profits and any related displacement expenses.

The deadliest wildfire in the history of California

The Camp Fire is the deadliest wildfire in the history of California. Currently, the number of fatalities from the catastrophe is 48. Around 100 people are still missing–many of them are in their 80s and 90s.

The wildfire burnt 7,600 homes and destroyed 260 commercial structures. It continues to threaten 15,500 structures, according to CAL FIRE.