Superior Court Judge Grants Petition to Coordinate North Bay Fire Litigation through the San Francisco County Superior Court

January 8, 2018  |  Environmental, Press Releases, Wildfire

The petition – initially submitted by the California Fire Lawyers and other law firms – is designed to expedite resolution for North Bay Fire victims and deliver consistency across legal process 

SAN FRANCISCO, January 8, 2018 – Last week, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow granted a petition to coordinate all North Bay Fire-related litigation brought against Pacific Gas & Electric Company (“PG&E”). Judge Karnow ruled in favor of coordinating the litigation in one location – San Francisco Superior Court – citing convenience of the location for all parties involved including the Plaintiffs, Plaintiffs’ counsel, and PG&E, as well as the efficiencies gained by litigating the complex matter in one forum before one judge.  This was heavily contested by lawyers for PG&E who, by contrast, petitioned the judge for a multi-judge and multi-county proceeding.

The decision to coordinate the North Bay Fire litigation supports the initial petition filed on October 31, 2017, by law firms including the California Fire Lawyers (which includes Baron & Budd, Singleton Law Firm, Dixon Diab & Chambers LLP, Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire, and Terry Singleton, Esq.), Robins Cloud LLP, and Edgar Law Firm. The filing petitioned the Judicial Council of California for a Judicial Council Coordinated Proceeding (“JCCP”).

By using a JCCP to hear the cases, one judge will oversee all pre-trial proceedings, eliminating duplication of efforts in the discovery process, wasting judicial resources and reducing the likelihood of inconsistent rulings on individual cases.  To date, more than 50 lawsuits have been filed against PG&E Corporation and Pacific Gas & Electric Company for the company’s role in causing what is being termed the North Bay Fires.

The North Bay Fires began on October 8, 2017, and caused extensive damages in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake, Solano and Butte Counties. The fires burned more than 220,000 acres, destroyed more than 8,400 structures and claimed the lives of more than 40 people.

“The North Bay Fires have many similarities to other cases that Baron & Budd and the California Fire Lawyers have successfully litigated in the past including the BP oil spill and the 2015 Butte Fires. Sadly, and similar to the North Bay Fires, all of these cases resulted in loss of life, billions of dollars in destruction and overall devastation. In each of these cases, the plaintiffs were vindicated through settlements of their cases because the evidence showed that corporations endangered the public, the environment – or both,” said Baron & Budd Shareholder and head of the firm’s Environmental Litigation Group, Scott Summy. “The California Fire Lawyers seek to bring justice to the public and the victims of this blaze. This is an important and positive step in the overall complex legal process because it allows one judge to hear all of the evidence, testimony and other expert information in one court which in turn eliminates inconsistent rulings and any undue delay in justice.”

Attorneys with the California Fire Lawyers group have successfully leveraged JCCP proceedings to expedite justice for victims of wildfires and other corporate disasters. For example, following the Butte Fire in 2015, more than 2,000 cases were coordinated into a JCCP, resulting in the successful settlement of hundreds of claims that continues today. Additionally, lead attorneys with Baron & Budd’s Environmental Litigation Group used a similar process when representing victims of the BP Oil Spill, resulting in more than $1 billion in settlements for victims.

“We are happy with Judge Karnow’s ruling and have no doubt that this coordination will expedite the legal process and help the victims seek justice in the most efficient manner possible,” said Ed Diab of Dixon Diab & Chambers LLP.

The California Fire Lawyers group has hired investigators, experts and adjusters to expedite the recovery process for victims. To inquire by phone, call 707-533-8128. Other information can be found online at www.CaliforniaFireLawyers.com.

ABOUT BARON & BUDD, P.C.

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.

ABOUT SINGLETON LAW FIRM, APC

Singleton Law Firm, based in San Diego, is one of the top fire litigation firms in the state of California. We have represented thousands of individuals in major fires all over the state of California, and we have recovered over $600 million for our clients in fire cases. Our lead attorney, Gerald Singleton, has served as Liaison Counsel and on the Executive Committees in some of the largest fires in the state. We currently represent over 2,000 individuals in the 2015 Butte Fire, which was a catastrophic fire started by PG&E power lines that burned over 70,000 acres in Calaveras and Amador counties. We recently represented the largest individual group of plaintiffs in the 2013 Powerhouse Fire in Los Angeles County, and Mr. Singleton served as Liaison Counsel for that case. Prior to the Powerhouse Fire, Singleton Law Firm was one of four firms who teamed up in a joint venture to represent over 1,600 individuals in the 2007 San Diego Fires. 

ABOUT DIXON DIAB & CHAMBERS LLP

The lawyers at Dixon Diab & Chambers LLP have gained national recognition as being some of the top litigators in their respective areas of practice. Ed Diab leads the firm’s fire litigation practice and has litigated numerous wildfire cases throughout the country. He was actively involved in the widely publicized lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric arising out of the 2010 San Bruno Gas Pipeline Explosion that leveled 38 homes and killed 8. He also currently represents numerous people in lawsuits against Pacific Gas & Electric that sustained significant property damages arising out of the 2015 Butte Fire in Amador/Calaveras County that burned over 70,000 acres. Both Deborah Dixon and Robert Chambers have significant experience litigating complex, multi-party lawsuits against entities and insurance companies on behalf of individuals and businesses. Their experience in personal injury, business litigation, products liability and class actions provide integral background for fire cases, as does their direct experience handling claims on behalf of victims who suffered personal injury and property damages because of fires.

ABOUT THORSNES BARTOLOTTA MCGUIRE

Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire was founded in 1978 by Michael T. Thorsnes and Vincent J. Bartolotta Jr. Less than a year later, third partner, John F. “Mickey” McGuire joined the firm. The firm has six partners including senior partner Kevin F. Quinn and partners Karen R. Frostrom, Ian C. Fusselman, and Brett J. Schreiber. Michael Thorsnes retired in 2002 but continues to be involved with the firm in an Of Counsel capacity. Since its inception the firm has annually earned numerous commendations, among them designations by American Lawyer Magazine as one of the top 20 firms in the Nation. The firm was recognized as  Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” by U.S. News & World Report and received the prestigious Tier One ranking for San Diego in the in the categories of Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Construction; Litigation – Real Estate; Mass Torts Litigation/Class Actions; Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs and Product Liability Litigation – Plaintiffs. Since that time, all six partners, as well as our four associates, have had favorite success stories, none sweeter than those for which they have been recognized by peers in diverse legal fields ranging from construction defects to personal injury to medical malpractice to business litigation. A chronology of the firm includes such awards conferred with astonishing regularity upon Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire partners as “Outstanding Trial Lawyer,” “Trial Lawyer of the Year,” and “Best Lawyers in America”. The firm has just received the prestigious “Best Law Firms” by U.S. News & World Report for 2018.

ABOUT TERRY SINGLETON, ESQ.

Terry Singleton is a San Diego-based attorney with more than 40 years of experience in civil litigation. Mr. Singleton has successfully tried dozens of cases to verdict and has obtained over 50 verdicts or settlements in excess of $1 million in personal injury, utility fire/negligence and/or wrongful death cases. This includes obtaining one of the largest verdicts ever awarded in a wrongful death case in Imperial County. Mr. Singleton has more than 20 years of experience managing utility-caused wildfire litigation, beginning with the 1993 Guejito Fire in Escondido, California. He served as one of two lead trial attorneys for the largest group of plaintiffs in the 2007 San Diego Wildfires, which included the City and County of San Diego, and recently was one of the trial lawyers who successfully conducted a jury trial resulting from the 2011 Las Conchas fire in New Mexico, where he represented individuals and the Native American Pueblos of Cochiti and Jemez against an electrical distribution and a transmission/generation cooperative. Mr. Singleton, a US Army volunteer and Vietnam veteran, is also an active member of the community. In recent years, his pro bono work has included working to free a young man from prison who was wrongfully convicted of murder in 2000.

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