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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Power company sues their customers after burning down their houses

San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), whose powerlines have been identified by CalFire investigators as causing the devastating Witch and Rice fires that burned large areas of eastern San Diego County in 2007, have said they intend to sue 14 of their customers whose homes burned in the fires. More than 1,100 homes and 197,000 acres burned, but SDG&E claims that the homeowners "failed to maintain property in respect to brush clearance". The power company's strategy is a countersuit to offset the suits of their customers who lost their homes.

Some of the homeowners are understandably stunned by this development.

This is like, for instance, if someone had a vicious dog who escaped through an improperly maintained fence, then attacked you and caused serious injury. Could the dog owner sue you for not carrying a weapon so you could have fought off the dog just before it attacked you?

As Wildfire Today reported on January 25, there are a gazillion lawsuits related to these fires. which so far are keeping over 150 lawyers gainfully employed and involve $1 billion.

Attorneyatlaw.com has more details.

HERE is a link to a map of the Witch fire.

UPDATE: January 30 @ 2:03 MT

As we have written in the past, we are strong advocates of the Prepare, Stay, and Defend program, for less flammable building materials, for property owners to maintain a fire safe environment around their structures, and for firefighters not being forced into unsafe situations fighting fire at unprepared homes. But if it turns out to be the case, as it appears now, that the fire was caused by negligence of the power company, it is unconscionable for them to sue their customers whose homes would not have burned down if the power company had not started the fire.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

California has frivolous lawsuit legislation in place. It allows an infraction (fine) or misdemeanor (jail or probation) for lawsuits wrongly brought before the courts with an intent of intentional malice. At the absolute minimum, it requires the instigator to pay all court costs and associated attorney fees if found guilty of filing a frivolous or fraudulent case.

SDG&E should probably think twice about their actions now, and their previous lack of action in powerline maintenance.

Bill Gabbert said...

SDG&E is also the power company that is considering a plan to cut off the electricity to tens of thousands of customers during periods of high fire danger.

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