A pair of lawsuits were filed Wednesday against one of the Northwest’s biggest private utilities, alleging the company was negligent and failed to properly maintain power lines during last year’s devastating Labor Day wildfires.
The two mass action cases were filed against PacifiCorp by Edelson PC and Johnson Johnson Lucas & Middleton, on behalf of 100 Beachie Creek Fire victims.
The lawsuits claim PacifiCorp failed to safely design, operate and maintain infrastructure. They also claim the utility failed to pay attention to warnings by the National Weather Service about the historically powerful east winds, which contributed to the spread and ignitions of Oregon wildfires, including the Beachie Creek Fire.
The plaintiffs are seeking more than $1 billion.
“The vast majority, if not all of the individuals that have been named in this suit, lost homes, or had property severely damaged or lost businesses,” Edelson PC Partner Chris Dore said.
The Beachie Creek Fire was one of the most catastrophic wildfires in Oregon’s history, burning more than 193,000 acres east of Salem. Dore said grouping the lawsuits together while still representing each individual, gives wildfire survivors a better chance to be fairly compensated.
Edelson PC has represented more than 1,000 individuals over the past couple of years from northern California’s 2018 deadly Camp Fire. The law firm helped secure and reach a resolution of a settlement amount of $13.5 billion against Pacific Gas and Electric company. The fire claimed 85 lives.
Dore said this lawsuit has many similarities between the lawsuit against Pacific Gas and Electric in which the utility knew what type of weather was coming, what the dangers were and possible solutions.
“The defendant here had the benefit of seeing what that tragedy at the Camp Fire looked like and learning from it,” he said. “In fact there are documents that they put together for themselves about what happened there and how to prevent it.”
The 100 individuals are only a portion of the people Edelson PC represents in Oregon. The law firm plans to file more lawsuits soon.
PacifiCorp faces at least one other class action lawsuit from three Pacific Northwest law firms. The suit claims the utility failed to properly maintain powerlines that caused the Labor Day wildfires.
A spokesperson for PacifiCorp declined to comment, citing company policy regarding pending litigation.