June 2016 Litigation Update by Butte Fire Law Attorneys:

The Butte Fire Case is underway, with many hearings and upcoming events but if you are interested in joining the litigation, it is not too late. Our Butte Fire Law attorneys will work with you individually, to make sure that your case is prepared and added to the lawsuit.

On May 11, 2016 co-liaison counsel for Plaintiffs, Butte Fire Law Attorneys  Amanda Riddle and Dario de Ghetaldi, met with Defense counsel and Judge Sumner and his staff to discuss logistical issues related to the Butte Fire Lawsuit.  The attorneys and the Court discussed deadlines for filing of several documents that are needed to keep the case moving forward.

On May 23, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a Master Complaint on behalf of all current and potential Plaintiffs.  The Master Complaint states all claims that are being pursued against PG&E, ACRT and Trees, Inc., for the damage these companies caused to each of individuals by starting the Butte Fire. The devil

On May 24, 2016, all counsel met with the Court to discuss the status of the case.  88 cases have been identified as entitled to “preference.”  Under the law, a case is entitled to “preference” if the Plaintiff is over the age of 70 and has health issues that require priority treatment.  The parties are discussing a procedure for assessing and resolving these cases as soon as possible.

At the May 24, 2016 hearing, the attorneys agreed to, and the Court signed, a Protective Order, which will protect as confidential any personal information provided by Plaintiffs, including any medical or health information.

The Court set the next status conference for July 14, 2016.  At this conference, the attorneys will discuss with the Court a trial plan.

The Court will be launching a website dedicated to this coordinated case, in an effort to keep all Plaintiffs and the public up to date on the proceedings.  We will provide you that link once the website is launched.

Butte Fire Law Attorneys are happy to answer your questions about the Butte Fire cases, clean-up efforts and options available to you, and address any concerns you may have about the Butte Fire Cases against PG&E, ACRT, and Trees, Inc.  Our team of experienced Butte Fire Lawyers can help you decide if joining the Butte Fire Law Attorneys in the case against PG&E, ACRT and Trees Inc., is right for you. To learn more please visit Butte Fire Law – Your Trusted Butte Fire Attorney Facebook Page or call (209) 691-FIRE to learn more about Butte Fire Law, the Butte Fire cases and to talk to a member of the Butte Fire Attorneys.


PG&E’S FAULT COULD LEAD TO PAYMENTS OF OVER 1 BILLION DOLLARS

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Pacific Gas and Electric Co. could end up paying hundreds of millions of dollars, possibly a billion dollars, to compensate for damage caused by September’s Butte Fire in Calaveras County, based on lawsuits already filed, claims anticipated and the past history of similar court cases in California. The Calaveras Enterprise  details how much damage has been caused and what’s coming next for those who have filed suit against PG&E.


CAL FIRE REPORT CONFIRMS PG&E’S ROLE IN CAUSING THE BUTTE FIRE

Cal Fire has released its official findings on the cause of the Butte Fire. The agency concluded that the fire was started by a tree coming into contact with PG&E wires. PG&E has a regulatory obligation, which the company clearly failed to meet here, to maintain trees in a manner that will prevent them from coming into contact with PGE electrical wires and causing fires such as this one. Butte Fire Law Attorneys continue to work to hold the company and its contractors responsible for all damage suffered by the victims of the fire.Burning power lines

See Cal Fire’s press release here (with a link to the complete report):
http://goo.gl/o03Ki

 


Watch NBC Bay Area’s Story on The CalFire Report


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May 2016 Litigation Update by Butte Fire Law Attorneys:

On April 22, 2016 over 20 attorneys for all parties appeared before Judge Sumner for the first Case Management Conference.  The Court appointed Butte Fire Law Attorney Amanda Riddle, to serve as co-liaison counsel for the victims of the Butte Fire, placing the Butte Fire Law Attorney team in a significant leadership position.  Ms. Riddle was nominated for the liaison counsel position by counsel for all Plaintiffs as a result of her exemplary work as co-liaison counsel for Plaintiffs in the PG&E “San Bruno Fire” Cases.

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The attorneys worked with the Court to develop a case management plan and a schedule that will expeditiously move the cases through the litigation process, with the hopes of a swift resolution for the victims.  The Court scheduled another informal conference with Plaintiffs’ liaison counsel and Defense counsel on May 11, to discuss the logistics of coordinating the cases in the Sacramento Superior Court and a further Case Management Conference on May 24, where counsel will report on the progress of the case. We have also served PG&E, ACRT and Tree, Inc., with substantial requests for information and documents, which we intend to use to bolster the claim that they are fully responsible for causing this fire.

Our Butte Fire Law attorneys at Corey, Luzaich, de Ghetaldi, Nastari and Riddle LLP, and at Danko Meredith Law are dedicated to helping victims of the Butte Fire receive the compensation to which they are entitled under the law for the fire that occurred in September 2015 that left many homeless and devastated much of the beautiful tree filled landscape of Calaveras and Amador Counties.

Butte Fire Law Attorneys are happy to answer your questions about the Butte Fire cases, clean-up efforts and options available to you, and address any concerns you may have about the Butte Fire Cases against PG&E, ACRT, and Trees, Inc.  Our team of experienced Butte Fire Lawyers can help you decide if joining the Butte Fire Law Attorneys in the case against PG&E, ACRT and Trees Inc., is right for you. To learn more please visit Butte Fire Law – Your Trusted Butte Fire Attorney Facebook Page or call (209) 691-FIRE to learn more about Butte Fire Law, the Butte Fire cases and to talk to a member of the Butte Fire Attorneys.


Coincidence? Or More Evidence of PG&E’s Responsibility for Butte Fire?

By Butte Fire Attorney Dario de Ghetaldi, February 23, 2016

In February 2015, tree cutters working for PG&E were supposed to remove trees from a grove that threatened power lines.  But they left standing a tree in the middle of that grove – a 44-foot tall grey pine that had a diameter of about 5 inches at the base that was leaning toward the lines. Over the following months, the tree leaned further and further until, on September 9, 2015,  it made contact with one of the lines and sparked the disastrous Butte Fire.

The tree itself was not burned in the fire. CalFire crews cut it down, sectioned it into 6 pieces, and have stored it, along with the wire it contacted, in an evidence locker at CalFire’s headquarters.

On a misty morning on February 17, 2016, a host of lawyers and experts were allowed to view,scorched tip photograph, and weigh the tree. Nobody was really sure why the tree was being weighed five months after the fire, but that’s what PG&E’s insurance companies wanted to do.  The photo to the right shows the scorched tip of the tree where it came in contact with the wire.

While the wire was being inspected and photographed under a microscope, a huge gust of wind scattered a stack of coolers

Tree falls onto wires during inspectionacross the parking lot. Then there was a loud “boom” and the lights went out. One of the experts, an electrical engineer, immediately identified the noise as a power line circuit breaker blowing.

Several lawyers and experts walked down the driveway to the CalFire headquarters to the road. About 150 feet up the road, this is what they saw – a tree that had blown down onto a power line and shorted it out. PG&E’s chief lawyer was on the phone immediately to PG&E to send a crew. It only took them 45 minutes to show up. Meanwhile, the  tree started smoking!

All this time PG&E has been claiming it has taken adequate steps to trim trees so as to protect its power lines.  And then this, with PG&E’s lawyers and insurers all as witnesses.  So you decide: Coincidence or something more?

Butte Fire Law Attorneys are happy to answer your questions about the Butte Fire cases, clean-up efforts and options available to you, and address any concerns you may have about the Butte Fire Cases Please visit Butte Fire Law – Your Trusted Butte Fire Attorney Facebook Page  or call (209) 691-FIRE to learn more.


 How Environmental Damages are Quantified 

By Butte Fire Law Attorney Kristine Meredith, February 22, 2016

Consultants and paid experts are now working to evaluate the environmental damages that the Butte fire caused. Some of the aspects of the loss they are looking into:

Cost of Clean Up: Wholly apart for reasons of aesthetics, all properties must be cleaned up. An owner may not be too concerned about felled timber left on a remote corner of his or her property, but the timber is hazardous as fuel for further wildfires and bug infestation.

  • Cost of a Comprehensive, Long Term Weed Abatement Program: Without a weed abatement program, invasive species will take hold and destroy the area’s biodiversity.

  • Cost of Timber Destroyed: Timber that has been destroyed must be inventoried, either by boots-on-the-ground survey or by the study of high-resolution satellite imagery. The timber’s pre-fire market value must then be determined.

  • Cost of Reforestation: Plans for reforesting the properties must include provisions for caring for the newly planted vegetation until the vegetation becomes self-sustaining. Plans must take into account whether the property was commercial or residential.

  • Cost of replacing Heritage or Landscaping Trees: Trees that provided shade, privacy, or had special aesthetic value must be identified and valued on an individual basis.

  • Erosion Control Plans: Engineers need to locate the areas most subject to the risk of erosion, develop an individualized plan for mitigation of each such risk, and then determine the associated costs. They will also look at structures and roads.

The work is ongoing. The experts won’t be able to draw conclusions concerning whether certain fire-damaged trees will survive and whether certain properties are at risk of damage from erosion until late spring, at the earliest.

Butte Fire Law Attorneys are happy to answer your questions about the Butte Fire cases, clean-up efforts and options available to you, and address any concerns you may have about the Butte Fire Cases Please visit Butte Fire Law – Your Trusted Butte Fire Attorney Facebook Page  or call (209) 691-FIRE to learn more.


 

Butte Fire Cases to be Coordinated

What documents must PG&E turn over to the lawyers for the fire victims? Which PG&E employees will be required to appear and answer questions under oath, and when? What scientific tests may plaintiffs’ experts perform on the evidence found at the fire’s origin?

These are the types of questions that a judge must decide as the lawyers get their cases ready for trial. Sometimes, these decisions end up being the most important ones a judge makes. But here, some of the Butte Fire lawsuits were filed in the Calaveras County court, and some in San Francisco. The judges in the two different counties could disagree on how these important questions should be decided. So the Calaveras judge ruled that all the decisions leading up to the trials should be made by a single judge, regardless of where the cases were filed. He decided Sacramento is a convenient place for all the attorneys and witnesses, and that the Sacramento court system was best able to handle all the paperwork involved in the pre-trial process without overwhelming the court staff.

It’s now up to the chief judge in Sacramento to assign one of that court’s judges to be the “Coordination Judge.” The Coordination Judge will make all the pre-trial decisions that will guide the preparation of cases. We expect the Coordination Judge to be named within the next few weeks. Once that happens, the Coordination judge will meet with all the attorneys for all the cases – both those filed in Calaveras and in San Francisco – to agree on a schedule for moving the cases forward. Where the cases will be tried remains to be seen.

Butte Fire Law Attorneys are happy to answer your questions about the Butte Fire cases, clean-up efforts and options available to you, and address any concerns you may have about the Butte Fire Cases Please visit Butte Fire Law – Your Trusted Butte Fire Attorney Facebook Page  or call (209) 691-FIRE to learn more.


February 2016 Litigation Update

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On behalf of their clients – victims of the Butte Fire in Amador and Calaveras Counties – Butte Fire Law Attorneys asked the California Judicial Council to coordinate the pre-trial handling of their cases.

Coordination allows two or more cases that share common questions of fact or law and that are pending in different counties to be joined in one court.  Here, attorneys filed many cases on behalf of victims of the Butte Fire in Amador and Calaveras Counties, in the San Francisco Superior Court, where PG&E is located, and in the Calaveras County Superior Court, where the majority of damage from the Butte Fire occurred. When complex actions are sought to be coordinated, a petition to coordinate the actions is submitted to the Chair of the Judicial Council (the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), who assigns a motion judge to decide the merits of the petition.  If coordination is recommended by the motion judge, the Chief Justice assigns the matter to a coordination trial judge.

In response to the request from your Butte Fire attorneys to coordinate the cases, the Chief Justice first asked Calaveras County Presiding Judge, the Honorable Grant Barret, to handle the matter.  Judge Barret chose to recuse himself because his close connection to the case and the local community in Calaveras and Amador County.

Ultimately, the Honorable Thomas Smith was assigned to hear the Butte Fire plaintiffs’ petition for coordination.  Judge Smith agreed with Butte Fire Law Attorneys that the large numbers of cases filed as a result of the Butte Fire should be coordinated.  He recommended to the Judicial Council that the cases be coordinated and named the Sacramento County Superior Court as the most appropriate site for the Butte Fire coordinated proceedings.  Although many assumed the entire case would be heard in Calaveras County, the location of witnesses, the smaller size of the Calaveras County Superior Court and the larger facilities, numbers of judges and resources available in Sacramento, made the Sacramento County Superior Court a logical choice for the multitude of cases to be heard in this coordinated proceeding.

As expected, the Chief Justice placed great weight on Judge Smith’s recommendation and, on February 9, 2016, issued an order authorizing the Presiding Judge of the Sacramento County Superior Court, the Honorable Kevin R. Culhane, to assign the coordinated cases to a judge in that county.  Judge Culhane will either keep the case or assign it to another judge in Sacramento County.  We will update our website once we know the identity of the coordination trial judge.

Butte Fire lawyers believe that the coordination of the cases for pre-trial purposes in the Sacramento County Superior Court will allow the victims of the Butte Fire to receive justice for the injuries to their daily lives, properties, homes and communities caused by the fire and resulting erosion and debris, as quickly and efficiently as possible. Residents and visitors alike are eager see the homes, properties and communities in West Point, Mountain Ranch, San Andreas, Jackson, Sheep Ranch, Railroad Flat and Mokelumne Hill, cleaned up, rebuilt and restored to the vibrant areas that have drawn people to Calaveras and Amador counties since well before the California Gold Rush.

Our Butte Fire Law attorneys at Corey, Luzaich, de Ghetaldi, Nastari and Riddle LLP, and at Danko Meredith Law are dedicated to helping victims of the Butte Fire receive the compensation to which they are entitled under the law for the fire that occurred in September 2015 that left many homeless and devastated much of the beautiful tree filled landscape of Calaveras and Amador Counties.

Butte Fire Law Attorneys are happy to answer your questions about the Butte Fire cases, clean-up efforts and options available to you, and address any concerns you may have about the Butte Fire Cases against PG&E, ACRT, and Trees, Inc.  Our team of experienced Butte Fire Lawyers can help you decide if joining the Butte Fire Law Attorneys in the case against PG&E, ACRT and Trees Inc., is right for you. Please visit Butte Fire Law – Your Trusted Butte Fire Attorney Facebook Page  or call (209) 691-FIRE to learn more about Butte Fire Law, the Butte Fire cases and to talk to a member of the Butte Fire Attorneys.

Butte Fire Law Attorneys are happy to answer your questions about the Butte Fire cases, clean-up efforts and options available to you, and address any concerns you may have about the Butte Fire Cases Please visit Butte Fire Law – Your Trusted Butte Fire Attorney Facebook Page  or call (209) 691-FIRE to learn more.


NEWS – Our Butte Fire Legal Team in the News


Updates from our Butte Fire Lawyers about the PG&E Lawsuit and more

Explore Television and News Coverage of Our Butte Fire Legal Team’s Dedication to Butte Fire Victims and to Restoring Calaveras and Amador Counties


 

The Butte Fire Legal Team in the Calaveras Enterprise:

“The law firm representing Mathes and Goldsmith is Corey, Luzaich, de Ghetaldi, Nastri and Riddle LLP and Danko Meredith, of San Francisco. Attorneys with the firm said they will also be filing an additional complaint against PG&E on behalf of several property owners next week. The firm held a town hall meeting in San Andreas on Oct. 26.The complaint states that after the fire, PG&E continued to fail in its obligations to the victims of the fire, specifically in terms of: cutting down trees that it claims are fire damaged and letting those trees fall and remain in the toxic ash from the fire; entering residents’ property without permission; leaving trunks and trimmings on residents’ property; closing roads to perform work without any notice; and failing and refusing to coordinate with the governmental agencies responsible for the cleanup of the disaster.” (Read More/Full Story: http://goo.gl/5C96a3)


The Butte Fire Legal Team’s Lawsuit Featured on NBC / KCRA:

“A wrongful death complaint has been filed against PG&E in connection with the Butte Fire, which burned nearly 71,000 acres and 475 homes. A tree hit a 12,000-volt power line on Sept. 9 that sparked the wildfire, which burned in Amador and Calaveras counties and led to the death of Owen Goldsmith, the lawsuit states. Goldsmith, 82, a music teacher and composer was found dead in his home just outside the town of Mountain Ranch. The complaint claims that the utility company has a history of not maintaining its electrical lines and surrounding vegetation.” (Read More/Full Storyhttp://goo.gl/SLoumH)

 


The Butte Fire Legal Team’s Lawsuit Featured on SFGate.com  (San Francisco Chronicle):

“The lawsuit said the fire started when a tree that had been ‘negligently maintained’ by PG&E or its contractor struck an overhead, 12,000-volt PG&E power line. The utility said state fire officials are still investigating the cause of the blaze, but a PG&E official, Barry Anderson, acknowledged Sept. 16 that “a live tree may have contacted a PG&E line in the vicinity of the ignition point.”

“The company’s neglect was inexcusable, the suit said, in view of the fire dangers caused by the drought and high temperatures that had prompted the state Public Utilities Commission to call on utilities to increase their management of brush near power lines. PG&E ‘failed to heed these obvious warnings,’ the suit said.”

“‘PG&E’s safety record is an abomination,’ the daughters’ attorneys said, citing the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion that killed eight people and several other lethal explosions and fires for which the company was found responsible.” (Read More/Full Storyhttp://goo.gl/dGOjEC )

 


The Butte Fire Legal Team’s Lawsuit Featured on NBC Bay Area News:

“…lead attorney, Amanda Riddle, of the Corey, Luzaich, de Ghetaldi, Nastari and Riddle law firm in Millbrae, said even if that’s so, ‘PG&E bears the ultimate responsibility. They put him in a situation where he felt that he had no escape.’

“The 13-page suit blames a tree, and PG&E’s ‘safety lapses,’ which the lawyers later refer to as an ‘abomination’ that resulted in the wildfire.

“‘In this case, PG&E failed to properly inspect its electrical lines and maintain the surrounding vegetation,’ the suit states. ‘PG&E has and continues to put its own profits before the safety of the California residents whom it serves.'” (Read More/Full Storyhttp://goo.gl/Vcz6EY)

 


The Butte Fire Legal Team’s Lawsuit Featured in the Union Democrat:

“Mathes and her sister, Karen Goldsmith, have filed a complaint in the Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco against Pacific Gas and Electric and its contracted enterprises, ACRT Inc. and Trees Inc.”

“‘We believe this case will be part of the coordinated proceeding,’ said Amanda Riddle, a lawyer representing Mathes and Karen Goldsmith. ‘However, because it is the only one of its kind in that it is the only wrongful death case, it will always be special and distinctive.'” (Read More/Full Story: http://goo.gl/RalQF4)



Our Butte Fire Legal Team hosts Town Hall Meetings and Client Information Events to ensure that all members of the community are up to date.

SOME PAST EVENTS Hosted by the Butte Fire Legal Team


Butte Fire Victims Town Hall Informational Meeting (Thursday, Nov. 19th, 2015) in San Andreas, CA


Butte Fire Victims Town Hall Informational Meeting on Saturday (Nov. 21st) in San Andreas, CA