Fire is never a gentle master.
Yes, you can sue for wildfire damage in California. But you should know a few things first.
Who is responsible for California Wildfire Damage?
Who is responsible depends on which fire.
- November 2018 Camp fire: blamed on faulty PGE equipment.
- July 2018 Mendocino Complex Fire: under investigation.
- July 2018 Carr fire: blamed on a flat tire.
- December 2017 Thomas Fire: blamed on SoCal Edison workers.
- December 2017 Liberty Fire: blamed on faulty SCE equipment.
- October 2017 Tubbs Fire: PGE electrical equipment suspected.
- October 2017 Redwood Valley Complex Fire: blamed on trees falling on power lines.
- October 2017 Atlas Fire: blamed on trees falling on power lines.
Most of the blame is based on California’s huge utility companies: SoCal Edison, PGE, and SCE. So says the New York Times.
What theories of liability could be raised against them?
Theories of Liability for California Wildfire Damage.
If you’re suing a utility company, watch out. They have a lot of money and a lot of lawyers. And they don’t like lawsuits and would love to push the cost of litigation onto consumers, as reported by the LA Times.
Here are some theories of liability for a California wildfire damage claim:
- Negligence: argue that the utility company had a duty to follow a standard of care consistent with the inherent danger of providing and operating electrical equipment. Also consider if California Public Utilities Commission General Order 95 is helpful. Then argue that the utility company breached that duty, for example, by failing to design the equipment to withstand natural events, failing to remove vegetation as required by Public Resource Code § 4292, and failing to remove branches.
- Trespass: if your trees were damaged, you could get double or treble the amount of damages. See California Civil Code § 3346 and California Code of Civil Procedure § 733.
- Inverse Condemnation: this is controversial, but powerful. See this article here, and Evan’s blog below.
What can I recover in a fire damage claim?
You can recover damage to your real property (your home), personal property (your stuff), for losing access to your home (ALE), for losing business profits (BI), and emotional distress, at least with respect to tree damage.
Here are some of Evan W. Walker blogs with useful insurance information:
How to Make a Fire Damage Insurance Claim
Understand Your Homeowners Policy
What to do if Your Homeowners Claim was Denied
And here are additional blogs with useful information:
What are the Statutes of Limitations
What is the Made Whole Doctrine
Personal Property and Loss of Use
Have questions? Contact Me for a free consultation.
Evan is a Fire Damage Attorney who also handles California Wildfire Claims. His practice includes Tree Damage and Inverse Condemnation. He is based is San Diego, and does a lot of work as a San Diego Fire Damage Attorney.