SCE Resolves All Thomas Fire, Montecito Mudslides Subrogation Claims
SCE agreed to pay $1.16 billion to subrogation plaintiffs as well as additional amounts for claims filed before a July 2023 deadline arising from future payments, up to a payout cap which was not specified.
“We are making significant progress toward resolving wildfire-related litigation,” said Pedro Pizarro, president and CEO of Edison International. “The settlement announced today resolves all the subrogation claims in the pending 2017 Thomas and Koenigstein fires and January 2018 Montecito Mudslides litigation. In addition, while other claims and potential claims related to the 2017/2018 Wildfire/Mudslide Events remain, SCE has reached settlements with several hundred individual plaintiffs in litigation arising from these events. The company continues to explore reasonable settlement opportunities with other parties.”
SCE estimated its expected remaining losses regarding the 2017/2018 wildfire/mudslide events at $4.6 billion. SCE’s estimated its total liability at $6.2 billion.
The settlement involved over 100 plaintiffs including financial institutions and insurance carrier families.
SCE said it will take an $878 million charge against fourth-quarter earnings in order to deal with the increased liability. This comes after the company wrote down $1.8 billion on its earnings in 2018’s fourth quarter due to wildfire claims.
SCE said it will issue $1 billion of equity to fund its ability to pay off debt it will incur paying insurance claims.
The Thomas Fire burned approximately 281,893 acres of land in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, destroying 1,063 buildings, forcing over 100,000 people to evacuate and causing two deaths. The fire caused over $2.2 billion in damages. Homes in Fillmore, Ojai, Santa Paula and Ventura, as well as unincorporated areas of both counties, were affected.
The fire burned natural vegetation in Montecito and this led to mudslides which killed at least 21 people and destroyed over 100 homes.
An investigation involving the Ventura County Fire Department, Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service found that high winds caused SCE’s power lines to arc and start the Thomas Fire. Lawsuits contend that this occurred due to SCE’s negligence.
Lawsuits argue that SCE was negligent for failing to maintain their power lines and the vegetation around them. Lawsuits claim SCE negligently failed to make sure their power lines could withstand Santa Ana winds that anyone could see coming.