Families affected by the North Bay fires now have nine separate lawsuits filed against PG&E, claiming the utility company’s negligence was responsible for the far-reaching blazes.
Three Redwood Valley families, of Mendocino County, filed a lawsuit Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court this morning after fleeing for their lives and losing their homes last month. A Santa Rosa couple, who were severely burned by the fire, filed a similar suit in the same court Wednesday, Bay City News reports.
“We lost everything,” homeowner Nemesio Ruiz said at a news conference outside the courthouse Thursday.
There are at least eight additional lawsuits filed against the utility company for failing to maintain electric lines and prune vegetation amid dry, windy conditions that pose a higher risk for fires. A Santa Rosa couple filed the first suit in mid-October.
Sonoma County dispatchers responded to several reports of downed power lines and exploding electrical transformers. PG&E said that “hurricane strength” winds over 75 mph ripped through the area, though a Bay Area News Group review of weather station readings found gusts of 30 mph when the equipment started experiencing damage.
“We are aware that lawsuits have been filed,” PG&E spokesperson Ari Vanrenen says in a statement. “Beyond that, we’re going to be focused on doing everything we can to help those communities rebuild and recover.”
PG&E has previously maintained that it will support reviews by regulators and agencies, but has not unequivocally denied they may have played a role in sparking the fires. On top of charges of negligence against the utility, the lawsuit also claims emotional distress, creation of a nuisance, and violation of state law.
Mary Alexander, lawyer for the Redwood Valley families, says more lawsuits against the utility are expected and for all cases to be assigned to one judge. Though the fires were in North Bay, she believes the suits should be in San Francisco, where PG&E is headquartered.