Jury Awards Labor Day 2020 Fire Victims Another $42.4 Million in Damages Against PacifiCorp

The verdict is the third consecutive win for plaintiffs in the certified class action, which collectively have awarded $220 million for 36 of the class members.  

A third jury in Portland, Oregon has awarded more than $42 million in compensation to ten survivors of the wildfires on Labor Day 2020. The total award to the ten plaintiffs is $42,412,119.00, consisting of $5.933 million in economic damages (which are doubled) and $23.25 million in non-economic damages, both of which are increased by 25% for punitive damages.

The verdict comes on the heels of a trial just last month, where the jury awarded $85 million to a different set of nine plaintiffs. This series of trials—which exclusively concern fire survivors’ damages—follow a class-action verdict last year that found PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, liable to an entire class of fire survivors for causing the fires. That jury also awarded punitive damages to the class.  That jury also awarded $92 million to 17 plaintiffs.

To date, the three juries have returned verdicts of $220 million to 36 plaintiffs. Additional damage trials for the thousands of remaining class members will continue moving forward.

During the trial, each survivor—as well as a representative from the Upward Bound Camp for Persons with Special Needs in Gates, Oregon—shared their stories from Labor Day 2020 and after. Plaintiff Christine Grom described how a live power line came crashing down on her property on Labor Day 2020, and how she then fled through fire and smoke that night—only to spend two years displaced from her home after she lost everything. Plaintiff Carl Seyboldt described how he was forced to set his two horses and pony loose in desperation as the fire threatened his home. The Executive Director of the Upward Bound Camp for Persons with Special Needs described how the fire began on the Camp’s premises after a power line fell. She then explained how the fires destroyed the Camp’s only indoor spaces that can accommodate campers, leaving the nonprofit organization without the ability to hold camps during the winter, spring and fall months. And the jury viewed the videotaped testimony of Delores Stowell, who passed away a year and half after the fires but had her testimony recorded in the weeks before she died so that she could hold PacifiCorp accountable for burning down her home and everything in it.

Last year, a Portland jury found PacifiCorp liable for causing the Labor Day fires, finding after a seven-week trial that the corporation acted negligently, grossly negligently, recklessly and willfully against the entire class, which PacifiCorp estimated included 5,000 people. That verdict also established that each subsequent damages award would be increased by 25% for punitive damages against the company. Plaintiffs and the class are represented by the Court-appointed Lead Counsel: Stoll Berne, Keller Rohrback LLP, and Edelson PC. They were assisted by Eugene-based Johnson Johnson Lucas & Middleton, PC.

“PacifiCorp for years prioritized profits over the safety of people in the communities it serves. In the five years before the fires, PacifiCorp paid its owners at Berkshire Hathaway more than $3 billion in dividends. That was money PacifiCorp should have used to upgrade its equipment and operations. Instead, the survivors of its fires are suffering the consequences of PacifiCorp’s reckless and willful disregard for their communities. We are proud to advocate on behalf of the survivors and to help them hold PacifiCorp accountable,” said Cody Berne, lead trial attorney for Stoll Berne in the case.

The case is officially named Jeanyne James, et al. v. PacifiCorp et al., No. 20CV33885 (Multnomah County Circuit Court, Oregon).

Further information about this procedure and the class action trial is available at www.PacifiCorpFireLitigation.com.

To seek additional information, fire survivors may contact Lead Counsel by dialing 503-217-6722 or 888-607-5808, or by emailing PacifiCorpFireLitigation@edelson.com.