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Regional Interests

Two New Wildfire Lawsuits Filed Against PG&E

Two new lawsuits have been filed against Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in San Francisco Superior Court, claiming the utility’s negligence is responsible for the devastating Northern California wildfires.

The fires have killed at least 43 people.

One case was filed Thursday morning by three families in Redwood Valley in Mendocino County, who fled for their lives early on the morning of Oct. 9 and lost their homes.

“We lost everything,” homeowner Nemesio Ruiz said at a news conference outside the courthouse Thursday.

Another lawsuit was filed in the same court late Wednesday by a Santa Rosa husband and wife who were severely burned as they ran through the flames on foot and their nightclothes caught fire.

Attorney Bill Robins said he believes the lawsuit by Ulla and Lars Tandrup of Santa Rosa is the first to have been filed on behalf of burn victims.

Mary Alexander, a lawyer for the three Mendocino County families, said the new lawsuits join nine other cases previously filed in Sonoma County Superior Court.

Alexander said she expects more lawsuits to be filed and expects the state Judicial Council to assign all the cases to a single judge to promote judicial efficiency.

She said she believes the cases should be handled in San Francisco Superior Court because the city is the headquarters of PG&E and its parent company, PG&E Corp.

The lawsuits allege PG&E was negligent in failing to maintain and inspect its power lines adequately and failing to prune vegetation around the lines.

The danger of fire was reasonably foreseeable because of “the extended drought, high temperature, low humidity, tinder-like dryness of vegetation and windy conditions,” the Ruiz lawsuit alleges.

In addition to negligence, the lawsuits include claims of emotional distress, creation of a nuisance, violation of state law and trespass by allegedly negligently caused fires.

A spokesman for PG&E was not immediately available for comment.

The company has previously said it is focusing on maintaining public safety and restoring power, and will support any reviews by relevant regulators and agencies.

Copyright 2017 KQED