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SACRAMENTO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Today, the national law firm of Baron & Budd announced that its shareholder, John Fiske, testified before the California State Legislature to denounce Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to eliminate the constitutional rights provided to fire victims through inverse condemnation. Inverse condemnation is the constitutional, no fault cause of action that helps facilitate efficient resolution in the aftermath of utility-caused wildfires. The State Conference Committee heard testimony today on S.B. 901, to address wildfire preparedness and response.
According to Fiske’s testimony, the Governor’s proposed changes to inverse condemnation have a direct impact on thousands of wildfire survivors, including hundreds of business owners, ranchers, farmers, and the 7,000 families who lost their homes because it will deny these victims of their constitutional rights to just compensation and a jury trial against the power companies who are allegedly responsible for causing the 2017 fires throughout the state.
“We strongly urge this committee to focus its efforts on prevention and public safety. If this committee believes that securitization is an option, or that pass through requires clarification, we are prepared to assist in that conversation,” said Fiske. “But we cannot support any package that removes the constitutional protection for homeowners, businesses, ranchers, farmers, and public entities.”
After presenting prepared remarks, Fiske engaged in a Q&A session with Senate Committee members, including Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), who questioned if the wildfires were caused by climate change. Fiske quickly retorted, “I think we’re here today at this hearing because PG&E is asking for some sort of bailout.”
In recent months, corporate executives from Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) lobbied the Governor and California State Legislature to limit fire victims’ ability to receive compensation for damages cause by the 2017 fires. PG&E spent $2.2 million on lobbying in 2018—triple the amount of what it spent in the first half of 2017. Between April and June 2018, PG&E reported spending $1.1 million specifically on lobbying for wildfire legislation.
Baron & Budd represent thousands of fire victims including hundreds of business owners, ranchers, farmers and approximately 25 public entities. Earlier this year, the firm successfully petitioned the Judicial Council of California for a Judicial Council Coordinated Proceeding (“JCCP”) to coordinate all cases against Southern California Edison arising from the 2017 Thomas and Rye Fires and to separately coordinate all cases against PG&E arising from the 2017 North Bay Fires.
The law firm of Baron & Budd, P.C., with offices in Dallas, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Austin, Los Angeles, and San Diego, is a nationally recognized law firm with a nearly 40-year history of “Protecting What’s Right” for people, communities and businesses harmed by negligence. Baron & Budd’s size and resources enable the firm to take on large and complex cases. The firm represents individuals and government and business entities in areas as diverse as dangerous pharmaceuticals and medical devices, environmental contamination, the Gulf oil spill, financial fraud, overtime violations, deceptive advertising, automotive defects, trucking accidents, nursing home abuse, and asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma.