Three Powerhouse Law Firms Unite in Fight for Thomas Fire and Montecito Mudslide Victims

LOS ANGELES--()--The law firms of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP, and Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger have come together to investigate claims of negligence against Southern California Edison (SCE) that have led to the deaths of at least 23 people, the displacement of tens-of-thousands more, and the destruction of over 1,300 homes and structures as a result of the Thomas Fire and subsequent mudslides in Montecito, California.

Beginning on December 4, 2017, the Thomas Fire wreaked havoc in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties as it burned more than 280,000 acres, making it the most destructive wildfire in California's history. Two people were killed and over 1,063 homes and structures were destroyed before the firestorm was fully contained and evacuations were lifted.

Six weeks after the Thomas Fire began, these communities were devastated once again. Torrential rains poured down charred hillsides now bare of vegetation, resulting in deadly flash floods and mudslides that destroyed 128 homes, damaged hundreds more, injured 28 people, and claimed the lives at least 21 residents in the community of Montecito – the cause of death of each victim identified by the Santa Barbara County Coroner's Office as “multiple traumatic injures due to flash flood with mudslides due to recent wildfire.” Rescue and recovery crews work around the clock to locate two people who remain missing and repair infrastructure in the wake of these disasters.

Fires caused by the failure of power lines and poorly maintained equipment owned and operated by utility companies regularly rank among the top sources of wildfires throughout California. State regulators, including the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL Fire), other fire agencies, and the California Public Utilities Commission, have launched an investigation to determine the cause of the Thomas Fire, with Southern California Edison (SCE) at the forefront of the investigation. The utility has a history of noncompliance with state law in failing to do its due diligence in maintaining its equipment in order to reduce the risk of fire.

“There are systemic problems with utility companies in California that fail to adhere to their own policies, and in my experience, Southern California Edison is no different,” said Brian Panish, who serves as co-lead trial counsel in litigation against SoCalGas and Sempra Energy, representing more than 7,000 victims impacted as a result of the 2015 Aliso Canyon Gas Well Blowout in Porter Ranch. "Time and time again, California residents suffer the consequences of disasters resulting from a utility’s diminished standard of care. We must hold these companies accountable for putting their profits over the safety of the people they serve.”

The firms of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP, and Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger have extensive experience in litigation against utility companies and, together, have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for fire victims. Members of this consortium have led the charge for victims impacted by the 2010 San Bruno Gas Explosion, the 2015 Butte Fire in Amador County, and represent hundreds of victims of the 2017 North Bay Fires who have suffered total property loss or the loss of a loved one.

While the process will be long in recovering compensation for damages sustained as a result of the Thomas Fire, these respected law firms have the resources and tenacity to see the matter to conclusion. Their combined experience includes prosecution of wildland and wild fires caused by utility line failures, with attorneys specializing in wrongful death, catastrophic injury, and property damage litigation. Companies like Southern California Edison must be held accountable for their negligent actions.

If you were impacted by the Thomas Fire and/or Montecito Mudslides and wish to discuss your legal options, please call us at (877) 497-3549 or visit online at

About Panish Shea & Boyle LLP

Panish Shea & Boyle LLP represents plaintiffs in wrongful death, catastrophic personal injury, property loss, product liability, mass torts and business litigation cases. Firm attorneys have dedicated themselves to obtaining justice for clients who are often dealing with a life-altering injury, death of a family member or other challenges caused by the wrongful act of another. The firm has obtained some of the most significant verdicts and settlements for plaintiffs including the largest personal injury verdict in United States history ($4.9 billion against General Motors), as well as some of the largest verdicts against SoCalGas including a $19.8 million verdict in 2014 to a man who suffered severe burn and traumatic brain injuries when his rental home exploded as a result of SoCalGas' negligence. The firm is consistently ranked among the best plaintiff's law firms in the country, including by U.S. News & World Report, where it has been recognized as a Tier One law firm in the areas of Plaintiffs Personal Injury Litigation and Plaintiffs Product Liability Litigation, as well as by the National Law Journal which has named the firm in its list of Elite Trial Lawyers. The firm's attorneys are frequently recognized as among the best trial lawyers in California, receiving Lawyer of the Year honors from various organizations, including the Consumer Attorneys of California, the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles, the American Board of Trial Advocates-Los Angeles Chapter, California Lawyer Magazine and Best Lawyers.

About Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy

Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy only represents people or entities in cases involving just principles or causes. The key to the firm's success is its experienced attorneys and staff and their innovative approach to litigating complex matters in a cost-effective and efficient manner. Firm attorneys consistently tackle this problem head-on with its teamwork approach to obtaining fair and reasonable resolutions. The firm is also known for the breadth of its practice and the diversity of its clients: CPM attorneys are experienced in personal injury, consumer class actions, state and federal false claims matters, antitrust law, securities actions, and employment law among other practice areas.

About Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger

As one of the premier personal injury firms in the United States, attorneys at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger have successfully represented injured people in both state and federal courts, before arbitration hearing boards and in mediation and settlement conferences. For nearly six decades, we have helped establish new law and used personal injury litigation to compel corporations to produce safer products. As leaders in the areas of personal injury and wrongful death litigation, our attorneys have helped shape personal injury law, while securing millions of dollars in financial compensation for injured clients.


Panish Shea & Boyle LLP
Angela Bailey, (909) 286-4040

Release Summary

Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP, and Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger join forces in Thomas Fire & Mudslide investigation.


Panish Shea & Boyle LLP
Angela Bailey, (909) 286-4040