PG&E guilty of involuntary manslaughter in Camp Fire

On November 8, 2018, sparks from a failed Pacific Gas and Electric transmission line caused a fire that quickly grew and raged across Northern California, destroying the towns of Paradise, Magalia, and Concow and killing 85 people. Texas residents should know what PG&E has faced in the aftermath of this incident, which is now known as the Camp Fire.

PG&E, California’s largest utility, declared bankruptcy in 2018 as the families of the victims and those who lost their homes and businesses in the fire filed claims seeking billions of dollars in damages. On March 23, 2020, the company entered into a plea agreement with the Butte County District Attorney’s office. It pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of unlawfully starting a fire.

As a result, it will be paying out $4 million in fines: the maximum amount possible. As the Camp Fire destroyed a canal and has left residents without access to water, the company also agreed to fund efforts to restore this access. There is some question, though, why PG&E did not plead guilty to 85 counts of involuntary manslaughter, seeing how it was 85 people who died.

While the company did not intentionally start the wildfire, still, it was held liable because of negligence on its part. Those who lost a loved one in the fire have filed a lawsuit under wrongful death law, and those who are successful may be reimbursed for pre-death medical bills, if applicable; funeral and burial expenses; loss of support and consortium; and more.

Those who lost a loved one here in Texas, even if the circumstances were not so overwhelming as a wildfire, may do well to request legal assistance. A lawyer may help build up the case and negotiate for a settlement out of court.