PG&E Could Face Murder Charges For Camp Fire Deaths
On December 31, 2018, the California Attorney General’s office in a federal court filing has stated that PG&E could possibly be charged with murder if their conduct is found reckless in the operation and maintenance of their power lines causing the Camp Fire. Over 86 people died from the fire.
The California Attorney General’s office, through a court filing on December 31st, by Attorney General Xavier Becerra, has stated potential state law criminal charges could be filed against PG&E if their investigation concludes that PG&E’s conduct is deemed willful and/or reckless. If PG&E is found responsible for failing to keep power lines clear of trees or vegetation or its failure to adequately maintain high transmission lines leading to falling cables causing sparks to reach vegetation, then PG&E could be determined to be reckless in starting the Camp Fire. Because the Camp Fire caused all of these murders, PG&E can then be charged with murder under the law.
PG&E did not comment directly on the Attorney General’s court filing.
The reason why such a unique California Attorney General’s filing came about was as a result of a federal judge’s request to the Attorney General office of its position on the matter. This federal judge is handling PG&E’s probation in the criminal case arising from the 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion which killed eight people. In that case, PG&E was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay a $3 million fine. The district judge who is monitoring that case, Judge William Alsup, requested Attorney General Becerra’s office to assist in identifying what potential criminal offenses PG&E could be facing in connection with the Camp Fires.
Legal observers and law professors believe the charges PG&E faces depends upon whether PG&E had notice of the risk that if their equipment started the fires that their negligence could lead to deaths. The standard is they knew ahead of time but did not do anything about it. That can be considered callous regard which could amount to a murder charge.
Of course, companies cannot be jailed if held criminally but they can be fined and removed from certain government and public sponsored contracts. For PG&E that could be a death knell.
We intend to prove PG&E’s reckless actions: That they started the fire and failed to keep their lines and poles clear of vegetation. Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsay has stated he hasn’t yet decided whether his office will file criminal charges against PG&E. They are waiting for Cal Fire (The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) to conclude its investigation of the fire’s cause.
Thus far, PG&E is faced with at least 20 lawsuits which all argue that the utility allowed its equipment to ignite the Camp Fire. Our evidence shows that an additional factor was a failed metal hook on an electrical transmission tower caused the Camp Fire. The failed falling hook touched un-insulated wire on the tower causing sparks which ignited the blaze at its point of origin.
The Wildfire attorneys of Nadrich & Cohen are currently representing over 100 Camp Fire businesses, homeowners, renters, evacuees and families of death victims. Our Chico office is located at Chico is at 1469 N. Humboldt, Suite 100.
Our legal teams are available now to provide a free and confidential consultation. Call us today at (530) 792-9108. We are also available for in-person meetings.