Investigators determined that Southern California Edison (SCE) power lines started the Thomas Fire in 2017. Utilities can be held liable for damages caused by fires they were responsible for in California. You may be eligible for financial compensation if you or a loved one was injured or killed by, or had property damaged or destroyed by the Thomas Fire. Call us today at 800-718-4658 for a free consultation. We handle Thomas Fire cases on a contingency basis, meaning there is no charge for our services until and unless we obtain a recovery.
Southern California Edison Power Lines Are Responsible For The Thomas Fire
Ventura County Fire Department investigators, along with Cal Fire and U.S. Forest Service teams, conducted a 15-month investigation into the Thomas Fire, concluding that two SCE power lines came into contact with each other during high winds, creating an electrical arc.
“The electrical arc deposited hot, burning or molten material onto the ground, in a receptive fuel bed, causing the fire. The common term for this situation is called ‘line slap,’ and the power line in question is owned by Southern California Edison,” the Ventura County Fire Department said.
The Thomas Fire burned around 281,893 acres of land, destroying at least 1,063 structures, damaging 280 more structures, and killing two people. It also led to mudslides which killed at least 21 people.
Grounds For A Thomas Fire Lawsuit
Lawsuits contend that SCE’s power lines started the Thomas Fire because SCE inadequately maintained the power lines and the vegetation surrounding the lines. There are several causes of action in a Thomas Fire lawsuit:
Lawsuits claim that SCE was negligent for many reasons, including:
• Failing to inspect their power lines in a reasonably frequent, proper and prompt manner;
• Failing to ensure their power lines could withstand foreseeable Santa Ana wind events without starting fires;
• Failing to clear vegetation within a 10 foot radius around power equipment as required by Public Resource Code § 4293;
• Failing to maintain a 4 to 10 foot clearance for all overhead electric lines as required by Public Resource Code § 4293;
• Failing to deal with dead, old, rotten or weakened trees near power lines which could contact or fall on the lines;
• Failing to perform inspections on overhead electric facilities as mandated by PUC General Order 165;
• Failing to de-energize power lines during expected and foreseeable Red Flag Warnings in fire-prone areas;
• Failing to de-energize power lines after the Thomas Fire’s initial ignition;
• Failing to make sure their employees and agents were capable of properly inspecting and maintaining their power lines;
• Failing to safely and properly perform construction in the canyon behind the KOA Campground adjacent to, or at the Comcast satellite facility in Santa Paula to prevent a fire from starting.
Californians can recover damages from utilities when utilities are responsible for fires under the inverse condemnation cause of action. This ability to recover damages comes from Article One, Section 19 of California’s constitution, which says that the government can only damage private property for a public use when just compensation is paid to the property owner. California courts have ruled this applies to utilities in the state because utilities are substantially no different than the government in this case because they have the ability to condemn private property through eminent domain, just like the government.
It is considered a trespass when the spread of a negligently caused fire wrongfully occupies the private land of another. Lawsuits contend the Thomas Fire trespassed upon the private property of others because it was started because of SCE’s negligence.
Lawsuits claim that SCE’s negligence resulted in a foreseeable obstruction to the free use of others’ property, invaded others’ right to use their property and interfered with others’ enjoyment of their property, thus constituting a private nuisance under Civil Code § 3479.
Lawsuits allege SCE’s negligence created a condition which was harmful to public health and damaged and interfered with the quiet use and enjoyment of property, affecting a substantial number of people within the general public. This constitutes a public nuisance under Civil Code §§ 3479 and 3480, and Public Resources Code §§ 4170 and 4171.
It is claimed in lawsuits that SCE allowed an unsafe condition presenting a foreseeable fire risk to exist on their property by negligently failing to maintain their power lines and the surrounding vegetation. Companies can be held liable for damages under premises liability when a dangerous condition they allow to be on their property causes damages to another person.
Violation Of Public Utilities Code § 2106
This code essentially says any public utility which does something unlawful or fails to do something they’re lawfully mandated to do is liable to anyone damaged by their unlawful action or inaction. Lawsuits claim the Thomas Fire occurred because SCE violated many codes and orders, including California PUC General Order 95.
Violation Of Health And Safety Code § 13007
This code essentially says anyone who negligently causes a fire is liable for the damages caused by that fire. Lawsuits contend SCE violated this code by negligently causing the Thomas Fire.
Thomas Fire Damages
Lawsuits seek to recover various damages from the Thomas Fire, including:
• The cost of repair and/or replacement of damaged or destroyed property;
• The loss of goodwill, benefit, enjoyment and use of property;
• The loss of earning capacity, wages and/or business profits;
• Treble or double damages for wrongful injuries to underwood, trees or timber as allowed under California Civil Code § 3346;
• Punitive and exemplary damages;
• General damages for loss of quiet enjoyment of property, emotional distress, mental anguish, inconvenience, disturbance, annoyance, worry or fear;
• Medical bills relating to injuries caused by the fire.
We are handling Montecito mudslide claims for people who were injured or killed by, or had property damaged or destroyed by the mudslides.
The Thomas Fire burned large amounts of vegetation whose roots stabilized topsoil in hillsides. This destabilized hillsides, leading to the Montecito mudslides.
The mudslides killed at least 21 people and two others were reported missing. Over 150 people were hospitalized by the mudslides, which destroyed over 100 homes and damaged another 300 in January 2018.
You may be eligible for financial compensation in a Montecito mudslide claim since lawsuits allege SCE’s negligence was responsible for the Thomas Fire, which was in turn responsible for the Montecito mudslides.
Thomas Fire Lawyers
We are the California wildfire claim experts. We are already handling thousands of California wildfire claims, including claims involving the Thomas Fire, the Camp Fire, the Getty Fire, the Kincade Fire, the North Bay Fire and the Woolsey Fire.
Our wildfire lawyers have recovered over $350,000,000 on behalf of clients since 1990 and have been handling wildfire cases the whole time during those three decades. Our extensive experience means we’ll get you the largest possible recovery for your damages, all while doing it without ever charging you anything out of pocket! Our no fee promise means we never charge you a fee unless we obtain you a recovery, meaning you can only gain money by hiring us, not lose it!
Call us today at 800-718-4658 for a free consultation if you or a loved one was injured or killed by, or had property damaged or destroyed by the Thomas Fire or Montecito mudslides. Alternatively, fill out the “Do I Have A Claim?” form on the right, email us at email@example.com or engage with our live chat.