On September 30, 2020, Keller Rohrback L.L.P., Stoll Berne, and Nick Kahl, LLC, three Pacific Northwest law firms with decades of combined environmental law experience, filed a class action lawsuit against PacifiCorp and Pacific Power for the catastrophic damage to homes, businesses, schools, and entire communities allegedly caused by the power companies’ negligence and downed power lines during the devastating fires that ignited in Oregon during Labor Day weekend of 2020. The lawsuit was filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court on behalf of Plaintiffs Jeanyne James and Robin Colbert.
The complaint alleges that PacifiCorp and Pacific Power failed to properly maintain and operate their electrical infrastructure, thus setting the stage for tragic losses in the very communities these utilities served. As a result, downed power lines accounted for a significant portion of the fire damage that communities members suffered.
The complaint also alleges that PacifiCorp and Pacific Power wholly failed to take simple measures, such as de-energizing their electrical equipment, that could have prevented these tragic losses—measures undertaken by other utilities. For example, the elementary school in Gates, Oregon, used by firefighters as a command center, was completely destroyed by fires related to downed power lines that were not de-energized.
“Many of these fires were not ignited by lightning or careless campers. Instead, these fires were whipped to their overwhelming size by a series of ignitions caused by these defendants’ power lines,” said Daniel Mensher, a partner at Keller Rohrback and a former environmental law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland.
Stoll Berne partner Yoona Park further noted, “The downed power lines also made it much more difficult for the firefighting crews to respond to and contain the fires.”
“At the end of the day, these tragic losses could have been prevented; these community-destroying fires were not inevitable,” said Mensher.
The law firms have sent a notice to the defendants indicating that the lawsuit will be amended to include additional relief, including damages, if the defendants do not agree within 30 days to rectify and pay for the losses their actions have caused.
If you have suffered losses as result of these fires, you may be included in the class seeking relief. For more information, click here.
October 2, 2020, Portland Business Journal: PacifiCorp faces class-action suit in wildfires over power lines fires
October 1, 2020, Oregonian: PacificCorp faces class action lawsuit for downed power lines that allegedly ignited devastating Oregon wildfires
October 1, 2020, KGW: Pacific Power utility sued over devastating Oregon wildfires
October 1, 2020, KOIN: Pacific Power utility sued over Santiam Canyon wildfires
October 1, 2020, KATU: Pacific Power utility faces lawsuit over devastating Oregon wildfires
October 1, 2020, ABC News: Pacific Power utility sued over devastating Oregon wildfires
October 1, 2020, USNews: Pacific Power Utility Sued Over Devastating Oregon Wildfires
October 1, 2020, Law360: PacifiCorp Hit with Proposed Class Action over Oregon Fires
October 1, 2020, Statesman Journal: Class action lawsuit filed against Pacific Power for wildfires that devastated Santiam Canyon