By Bay City News Service
Seven new lawsuits were filed against PG&E Co. today in three different courts by people whose property was burned in the devastating North Bay wildfires in October.
The lawsuits in San Francisco, Sonoma County and Napa County superior courts accuse the company of negligence in failing to trim brush and inspect and maintain power lines adequately.
Several suits allege the fires were "an inevitable byproduct of PG&E's willful and conscious disregard for public safety" by creating a situation in which downed power lines and other equipment problems caused or contributed to the fires.
The new cases bring the total of lawsuits filed against PG&E thus far to at least 15.
At least 43 people died in the fires.
State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said earlier this month that insured losses of homes and other property amounted to $3.3 billion thus far and that the amount was expected to grow.
One of the new lawsuits was filed in San Francisco Superior Court by former Mayor Frank Jordan and Wendy Paskin-Jordan, who lost their home in Santa Rosa.
Their lawsuit says they saw a rapidly moving 75-foot-high wall of flames about one mile from their house at 11:15 p.m. on Oct. 8 and fled in a car with visiting houseguests to San Francisco.
Philippe Langer, owner of Kitoko Vineyards in Napa, sued PG&E in Napa County Superior Court.
Gregory and Christina Wilson, who huddled in the swimming pool of their Santa Rosa home for three hours early in the morning of Oct. 9, sued the utility in San Francisco Superior Court.
The lawsuit says that during that time, they repeatedly ducked under the water to escape the extremely hot air and burning embers, resurfacing for gasps of smoke-filled air. They were hospitalized for about 10 days for treatment of burns and smoke inhalation, their lawsuit says.
In addition to negligence, the lawsuits include claims of creation of public and private nuisance, violation of state utility and public-safety laws, and trespass by the fire. They ask for financial compensation for their losses and an additional punitive award.
PG&E spokesman Ari Vanrenen said, "We are aware that lawsuits have been filed. There has been no determination on the causes of the fires. We're focused on doing everything we can to help these communities rebuild and recover.
"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," Vanrenen said in a statement.
The California Judicial Council is expected to decide whether all the wildfire lawsuits should be coordinated before a single judge for judicial efficiency. PG&E has urged that the lawsuits should be handled in five groups corresponding to the locations of the fires.
Read the full PG&E statement below:
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. There has been no determination on the causes of the fires. We're focused on doing everything we can to help these communities rebuild and recover.