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James et al. v. PacifiCorp et al.

This case is a certified issues class action arising from the 2020 Labor Day fires in Oregon. Former Oregon Governor Kate Brown described the fires as possibly the greatest loss of life and property from wildfire in Oregon’s history. The four fires—Santiam Canyon, South Obenchain, Echo Mountain Complex (which includes the Echo Mountain and Kimberling Fires), and 242 Fire (Two-four-two)—destroyed over one thousand structures, burned over 100,000 acres, and displaced more than 10,000 Oregonians. The fires were entirely preventable. 

On behalf of our clients and the entire class, we proved during a two-month jury trial in Spring 2023 that PacifiCorp, a massive investor-owned electric utility that is part of the Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate and does business in Oregon as Pacific Power, caused the destruction by leaving power lines and other equipment energized during extremely dangerous fire conditions, re-energizing damaged power lines without inspecting them, and not keeping trees and brush away from power lines. PacifiCorp knew the fire danger was extreme and was even warned by the Governor’s office on Labor Day. This is believed to be the first major utility-caused fire case to go to trial in three decades.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiffs and the entire class, including finding PacifiCorp was grossly negligent and acted recklessly and willfully. The jury also found PacifiCorp liable for punitive damages. The jury awarded economic, noneconomic, and punitive damages on average of approximately $5 million to each of the 17 named-plaintiffs. The total awards across the entire class could be in the many billions of dollars. According to PacifiCorp, there are approximately 5,000 class members.  

You can see an excerpt of part of our closing argument here: 

Cody Berne Closing Sets Up Massive Verdict Against PacifiCorp in Trial Over Devastating Wildfires – YouTube.