Portland Jury Awards $85 Million Judgment to 9 Victims of Labor Day 2020 Fires in First PacifiCorp Damage Phase Trials

Verdict follows classwide liability findings and continues path to billions of dollars in compensation for fire victims as more trials are set in the coming months.

A jury in Portland, Oregon awarded $85 million in compensation from PacifiCorp to nine survivors of the fires that swept across Oregon on Labor Day 2020. The verdict, which consisted of more than $6 million in economic and $56 million in non-economic damages, translates to an award of more than $85 million after the doubling of economic damages and the addition of punitive damages of 25% that are automatically applied given the jury’s verdict in the first phase of the case. This verdict is the first trial exclusively on individuals’ damages after a historic class action verdict last year that established that PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, was liable to the entire class for causing the devastating fires. It is the second jury verdict awarding damages to injured class members, and maintains a trajectory which, according to PacifiCorp, represents more than $25 billion in total damages to the class.

Through three days of testimony, the victims of the Labor Day Fire recounted the horrific stories of fleeing the fires and the losses they suffered. One survivor, Scott Johnson, described how he and his wife, Mary Beth Carden, leapt into the river beside their property and hid for hours while the fire consumed their hand-built home. Another, Cory Staniforth, rushed back to his farm to attempt to save his penned-in chickens and livestock before realizing that the fire had encircled him. He was forced to run through “walls of flame” to escape back to his wife, who was nine months pregnant at the time. Frank King, a 101-year-old veteran of World War II, described losing 98 years of history and memories in the fire.

This trial concerned only damages to the victims. Last year, a Portland jury determined that PacifiCorp was liable to an entire class of people for causing the Labor Day fires, finding after an intensive, seven-week trial that PacifiCorp acted negligently, grossly negligently, recklessly, and willfully with regard to the entire class. The ruling paved the way to trials limited to the damages suffered by the other members of the class— according to PacifiCorp, some 5,000 victims—of which this was the first. The next damages trial is set to begin February 26, and will seek compensation for another nine survivors of the fires, as well as the Upward Bound Camp for Individuals with Special Needs. The Camp operates at the old Gates School, on the site where a power line started a fire on the night of Labor Day 2020. The third damages trial is set for April 22, 2024.

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.

Plaintiff’s Counsel provided the following statements:

● “This was an incredibly difficult trial for our clients, and we are so grateful to the jury for its time, its service, and its thoughtful verdict. For days, these victims were forced to recount their traumatic experiences just surviving the wildfires caused by PacifiCorp, all while PacifiCorp sought to diminish their experiences. We are so proud of the strength and resilience of our clients, and thankful to the jury for holding PacifiCorp accountable for what happened on Labor Day 2020—something it will never do itself,” said Nick Rosinia, the chair of Edelson PC’s trial team.

● “We are committed to getting as much compensation as possible for Labor Day fire survivors as expeditiously as possible. Today’s powerful verdict is another important step in that direction,” said Matthew Preusch, a partner at Keller Rohrback LLP.

● “As a native Oregonian, it has been a tremendous honor to advocate on behalf of survivors of PacifiCorp’s fires. Our community and the entire state needed to hear the facts about what PacifiCorp did to the survivors and their families. This trial was about these brave people. It was also about a corporation and its owners at Berkshire Hathaway who refuse to take any accountability. We thank the jury for holding 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.

Press may contact press@edelson.com for additional information.

About Lead Counsel

Edelson PC

From cases involving environmental pollution, wildfires, the opioid epidemic and NCAA head injuries, to exposing plaintiff’s lawyer Tom Girardi’s multi-decade Ponzi scheme, Edelson is consistently recognized as a leader in high-stakes class and mass action plaintiff’s work. As lead counsel, the firm has recovered over $5 billion in settlements and judgments, with its overall settlements and judgments surpassing $45 billion. Edelson PC has offices in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boulder, CO, Washington, D.C., and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Keller Rohrback L.L.P.

Keller Rohrback, with offices in Seattle, Portland, Phoenix, Oakland, Missoula, New York, and Santa Barbara, serves as lead and co-lead counsel in class actions throughout the country. The team of environmental litigators has a long history of successful representation in a wide range of important environmental litigation. They have helped protect people and the environment across the country, with judgments and settlements on behalf of clients exceeding $75 billion dollars.

Stoll Berne

Stoll Berne, based in Portland, Oregon, represents plaintiffs nationwide in complex environmental, securities and other class action lawsuits. Recently, Stoll Berne represented the State of Oregon in obtaining a $698 million settlement in a PCB contamination lawsuit against Monsanto.