LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--On November 8, 2018, the Woolsey Fire ignited beneath SCE power lines in Simi Valley which went on to burn nearly 97,000 acres in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, consumed 1,643 homes and structures and resulted in three fatalities. After losing their Malibu homes and belongings to the massive wildfire, Jennie Prieto and Carol Bretonne have filed a lawsuit against Southern California Edison (SCE) that exposes serious problems with the effectiveness of SCE's risk management practices and highlights the utility's willful mismanagement of its electrical facilities during well-known and anticipated fire conditions in Southern California.
As alleged in the complaint, in approximately 2013, SCE implemented a "Run to Failure" (RTF) maintenance model, whereby the utility relied entirely on reactive maintenance as its equipment failed rather than requiring and enforcing preventative maintenance for its electrical facilities. This practice by SCE allowed more profits for its shareholders by spending less money on necessary maintenance and infrastructure improvements. SCE's maintenance model increased the risk of wildfires and led to the ignition of both the 2017 Thomas Fire and the 2018 Woolsey Fire.
In 2015, SCE identified a power pole as needing to be replaced at Koenigstein Road, but SCE chose not to replace it. On December 4, 2017, the dilapidated pole failed during extreme fire conditions, causing an explosion and a shower of sparks that ignited one of the most destructive wildfires in California's history. The Thomas Fire burned so fiercely, it denuded and transformed the soil into a water-repellant surface. Less than a month later, and before the Thomas Fire was fully extinguished, rainfall over the hills above Montecito resulted in massive debris flows that claimed the lives of 22 men, women and children. In keeping with its RTF protocol, SCE replaced the pole at Koenigstein Road immediately after the Thomas Fire. To add insult to injury, the utility giant spent millions of dollars on media advertising that same year, diverting funds that should have been used for infrastructure and vegetation management improvements.
No lessons were learned by SCE despite the horrific consequences of "Run to Failure." Less than a year later, the Woolsey Fire ignited beneath SCE power lines and residents in surrounding communities were forced to flee from their homes. In a December 6, 2018 letter to the California Public Utility Commission, SCE stated that during a Red Flag warning, “its Big Rock 16kV circuit signaled a problem. Upon inspection, a guy wire was discovered in proximity to a jumper at a lightweight tubular steel pole.” Cal Fire investigators confiscated SCE’s facilities from the scene, including multiple guy wires, the jumper, communication wires, and a pole top. “Equipment failures and overloaded, dilapidated utility poles are extraordinarily dangerous, but shamefully common, under SCE’s purposeful RTF system of maintenance."
“Imagine a major airline company had a problem with the engine on one
of its jets but instead of repairing it, the plane remained in operation
until it failed. The devastation and loss of life would be catastrophic.
That is precisely what we have here. SCE's decision to rely on this
method of failure maintenance was purposeful and done in order to ensure
that the company's profits grew at the expense of public safety."
~ Rahul Ravipudi of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP
Despite repeated incidents of mass destruction and death, risk analyses, citations, fines, convictions, lawsuits, verdicts and settlements all revealing SCE’s failures to appropriately and safely maintain and operate its infrastructure, "SCE’s callous and despicable disregard for the safety of California communities is underscored by its diversion of necessary safety-related expenditures into funding corporate bonuses, boosting shareholder profits, and/or running advertising campaigns, while ignoring the serious and irreparable nature of the public safety threat posed by its aging infrastructure and ineffective vegetation management practices." As a result, “the people of California have paid for corporate greed with the lives of their loved ones, their homes, and their most cherished belongings.”
Attorneys at Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP, Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger and Dreyer Babich Buccola Wood Campora, LLP represent Jennie Waterhouse Prieto and Carole Bretonne against Southern California Edison and Edison International, et al.
Jennie Waterhouse Prieto and Carol Bretonne v. Southern California
Edison, et al
Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles – Central District
Case No. 18STCV08285
About Panish Shea & Boyle LLP
Panish Shea & Boyle LLP is a plaintiff's personal injury law firm in Los Angeles that takes on large corporations and government entities, whose negligence causes our clients' injuries, and holds them accountable. Firm attorneys currently serve as Plaintiffs' Co-Lead Counsel in the Southern California Fire Cases against SCE as a result of the Thomas Fire and subsequent debris flows in Montecito, CA, and serve as Co-Lead Trial Counsel representing thousands of clients in individual and class action lawsuits against SoCal Gas and Sempra Energy following the Porter Ranch Gas Well Blowout in October 2015. Panish Shea & Boyle LLP attorneys have repeatedly and consistently obtained some of the largest verdicts against a utility including a $41.8 million verdict and subsequent $46 million settlement for a motorcyclist struck by a SoCal Gas truck in 2018 and a $19.8 million jury verdict in 2014 to a man who suffered severe burn and traumatic brain injuries when his rental home exploded as a result of a SoCal Gas' negligence.
About Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP
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.
About Dreyer Babich Buccola Wood Campora, LLP
Dreyer Babich Buccola Wood Campora, LLP is the premier personal injury law firm in the Sacramento area and in Northern California. The firm has been serving clients for 30 years. Our well-honed skill in this field gives us the ability and compassion to fight for people who have been harmed by the carelessness of others. When large businesses ignore your safety or insurance companies fail to uphold your rights, you can turn to us. We are the firm that doctors, lawyers and judges call when they and their loved ones are injured