PG&E Battles Landslide, Fire Lawsuits

Victims of a North Bay fire and the city attorney have both targeted the utility.

No stranger to lawsuits, PG&E this week got hit with two — each alleging negligence around a 2016 landslide, and the North Bay fires.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced Wednesday that he filed a lawsuit against the utility for its alleged role in a landslide last year that destroyed one home and damaged another five. The suit alleges that PG&E insufficiently relocated gas lines recently before the landslide in January 2016 between Casitas Avenue and Miraloma Drive.

The city has paid $6.7 million to the six homeowners, $600,000 in unpredicted construction costs,  and more than $500,000 in attorneys’ fees. More costs could come to relocate a water main on Casitas Avenue if PG&E doesn’t fix its work, according to the suit.

PG&E could have avoided causing the landslide if it used the right material to bed the new gas lines adjacent to the city’s water main and inadequately compacting the soil, Herrera says. Stresses induced by that work caused a leak that made its way to the landslide slope.

Herrera wants San Francisco Superior Court to identify the gas line relocation as a major factor, have PG&E cover nearly $8 million in city’s cost, and for the company to fix the defects or pay the city to do it.

A Santa Rosa couple who lost their homes to the Tubbs fire also alleges negligence in a suit against the utility Tuesday, Bay City News reports. Though the cause of the fire is not yet known, the couple says PG&E failed to maintain electric lines and prune vegetation amid dry, windy conditions that are known to pose a fire risk.

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 aren’t going to speculate about any of the causes of the fires and will support the reviews by any relevant regulator or agency,” PG&E spokesperson Donald Cutler says in a statement.

The couple’s attorney, Bill Robins, says he has several similar lawsuits regarding North Bay fire victims in the works.




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