The California Camp Fire of 2018 is the deadliest and most destructive
wildfire in the state’s history to date, as well as the deadliest
wildfire in the United States since 1918. The Camp Fire scorched roughly
153,400 acres of land, killing 86 people, injuring 12 others including
5 firefighters. Current estimates for insured damages are placed somewhere
between $7.5 and 10 billion.
The Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) is a private energy utility
company providing power to residents throughout California. As a utility
company, PG&E may be strictly liable for damages resulting from the
Camp Fire if their operations as a utility provider are shown to have
been a contributing cause of the fire, under California law. Although
PG&E is a private utility, it assumes the responsibility of conducting
business as what was historically considered public service. Thus, PG&E
is subject to strict liability under California inverse condemnation laws
– a variation of the traditional civil action in
eminent domain, but where the property owner sues the government for just compensation
regarding the “taking” of the plaintiff’s private property
for a public purpose.
PG&E is still investigating the fire but has disclosed the fact that
one of its powerlines near the area suspected to be the site of Camp Fire’s
origin experienced a power outage 18 minutes before people reported seeing
flames in the area.
The Camp Fire Bill
In the aftermath, a wildfire bill was proposed in the California state
legislature. The proposed bill would allow PG&E to use bonds to pay
off the costs related to the 2018 Camp Fire. This law is similar to a
proposed measure – SB901 – which allowed PG&E to use bonds
to pay for wildfire settlements in 2017. Thus, some of the utility company’s
liability for the 2018 Camp Fire would be paid from a government loan
issued from California taxpayer dollars. The introduction of this bill
also stirred up a political debate over whether to reform to California’s
inverse condemnation laws. Proponents of reform argued that California’s
inverse condemnation laws would bankrupt energy utilities.
However, it looks like the proposed Camp Fire legislation is unlikely to
end in any change to California’s inverse condemnation law.
“There was really no appetite for changing inverse condemnation this
year,” said state Senator Scott Wiener. “So I’d be surprised
if we went back and did it next year.”
Consult a Qualified California Eminent Domain Lawyer
Have you lost your home as a result of the public utility’s operations?
If so, you may be entitled to a legal remedy under California inverse
condemnation laws. Therefore, you should retain an experienced California
eminent domain attorney for legal counsel. At
Allen, Semelsberger & Kaelin, LLP we have experience in eminent domain and inverse condemnation cases. We
are passionate about advocating for your constitutionally-guaranteed right
to receive just compensation for the loss of your home at the hands of
Contact Allen, Semelsberger & Kaelin, LLP online
or call us at (888) 998-2031 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced
California lawyer today.