Kincade Fire Lawsuit Information
Friday July 10, 2020 — A high-voltage PG&E transmission tower has been implicated in starting the destructive 2019 Kincade Fire. Lawsuits are now under review to compensate fire victims in Sonoma County for personal injuries, property loss, business loss, and other legal damages.
If you or a loved one was affected, contact our experienced mass tort attorneys to learn about the Kincade Fire lawsuit and understand your legal options.
We provide all consultations at no cost and with no obligation.
Kincade Fire Map
Kincade Fire Lawsuit Against PG&E
While investigations are ongoing, early evidence suggests PG&E’s malfunctioning electrical equipment caused the Kincade Fire at its origin point in The Geysers. This disaster follows a long history of safety violations and devastating wildfires involving PG&E equipment. The Kincade Fire lawsuit is based, in part, on the following allegations:
- On October 23, 2019, at 9:20pm, PG&E reported an outage on its transmission tower known as the Geysers #9 Lakeville 230-kilovolt line.
- Moments later, at 9:27pm, a fire ignited at John Kincade Road and Burned Mountain Road, northeast of Geyserville, in the vicinity of PG&E’s tower malfunction.
- Cameras maintained by ALERT Wildfire captured the moment the fire ignited, with footage captured on both the Barham North and Geyser Peak cameras.
- Initial dispatch reports warned firefighters of possible downed power lines in the area.
- By 7:30am on October 24, 2019, Cal Fire investigators had taped off the area and identified a broken jumper cable on PG&E’s Lakeville tower. The jumper is a conducting wire located on the tower that connects transmission circuits to one another.
- PG&E’s inadequate inspection and repair of its decaying electrical grid leaves transmission towers and their components susceptible to failure during high wind events.
- The National Weather Service recorded wind gusts of up to 70 mph on the night of October 23rd.
- The ensuing Kincade Fire was active for 13 days and burned 77,758 acres.
- The fire destroyed 374 residential, commercial, and other structures, with an additional 60 structures sustaining fire damage.
- Cal Fire issued mandatory evacuation orders for an unprecedented 186,000 residents as over 3,200 firefighting personnel worked to contain the blaze.
- Firefighters successfully held the perimeter just north of Larkfield-Wikiup and other areas devastated by the 2017 Tubbs Fire only two years prior.
- No fatalities were reported.
- At the time of the Kincade Fire, PG&E had implemented a widespread Public Safety Power Shutoff (or PSPS) due to the high fire danger presented by its electrical grid.
- Under its PSPS procedures, however, PG&E did not de-energize its high-voltage transmission towers, such as the Geysers #9 Lakeville line.
- This large transmission tower carries a mass of energy from two geothermal steam turbines in The Geysers to supply electricity broadly throughout the state.
- Rather, PG&E’s policy was to limit power shutoffs to the utility’s lower voltage distribution lines, which serve electricity to end-users at local homes and businesses.
- According to PG&E, the utility shuts off power to distribution lines when wind gusts reach 45 mph, but a higher threshold of 55 mph is required for a transmission level shutoff.
- The company maintains that weather conditions did not warrant a transmission level shutoff on October 23, 2019.
- Thus, PG&E’s aging Lakeville tower remained energized on the night of the Kincade Fire despite a significant risk of equipment failure and resulting wildfire damage.
- The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has opened an investigation into PG&E’s regulatory and safety compliance during its October 2019 PSPS events, which impacted over 2.4 million customer accounts yet failed to prevent another catastrophic Sonoma County wildfire.
PG&E Safety Violations
- As the Los Angeles Times recently reported, PG&E equipment has been involved in 1,552 fires from 2014 through 2017.
- In November 2018, a different high-voltage PG&E transmission tower malfunctioned and caused the deadly Camp Fire in Butte County, which killed 85 people and destroyed the town of Paradise.
- Inspections conducted after the Camp Fire revealed 32 high-priority problems on the Caribou-Palermo transmission line that PG&E had failed to repair.
- On March 23, 2020, following a grand jury indictment, PG&E pled guilty to 84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter and one felony count of unlawfully starting a fire.
- PG&E’s conviction in connection with the Camp Fire follows a troubling history of safety violations that caused years of devastating fires and explosions. Other prior events include the 1994 Trauner Fire (739 counts of criminal negligence and $24 million in penalties); the 2003 Mission District Substation fire; the 2008 Rancho Cordova explosion ($38 million in CPUC fines); the 2010 San Bruno explosion (6 felony convictions, $1.6 billion in penalties, and ongoing criminal probation); the 2011 Cupertino explosion; the 2014 Carmel explosion ($36 million in total fines); the 2015 Butte Fire in Calaveras County ($98.3 million in fines and costs); and the 2017 North Bay Fires (44 fatalities and over 245,000 acres burned).
- Evidence in these cases documents PG&E’s practice of diverting funds away from necessary vegetation management and maintenance of its electrical infrastructure, and a critical failure of the company’s safety culture and procedures.
- PG&E CEO Bill Johnson recently admitted to state regulators that widespread power shutoffs would be necessary for another 10 years before PG&E could ensure the safety of its electrical system.
FAQs – Kincade Fire Lawsuit
Is the Kincade Fire lawsuit a class action proceeding? No. As with prior wildfire cases, claims by Kincade Fire victims will be filed on an individual basis. This means you will have your own attorney to represent you, and your case will be resolved according to the unique facts of your case and the damages you experienced. In a class action, by contrast, a select few plaintiffs would file a single lawsuit on behalf of all victims with any recovery divided amongst the class members. No such class has been certified related to the Kincade Fire.
What types of damages are you entitled to pursue? While each case is different, common damage categories include: the cost to repair or replace your home and personal belongings; the loss of use and enjoyment of your property; depreciation in the value of your land; damage to amenity trees, forestry, timber, and underwood; business losses; lost wages; loss of crops; harm to pets or livestock; emotional distress; and personal injury. Even if you have insurance, you will likely experience a shortfall in some areas of coverage, as well as damages that fall outside your policy altogether. These shortfalls may be pursued against PG&E until you and your family are made whole for your losses.
Will Kincade lawsuits be included in the PG&E bankruptcy settlement? The procedure for prosecuting Kincade claims against PG&E remains undetermined at this time. The proposed bankruptcy plan resolves claims that were outstanding as of January 29, 2019, the date PG&E filed its bankruptcy petition. Since the Kincade Fire occurred thereafter on October 23, 2019, these claims could “pass through” the bankruptcy and be prosecuted against the reorganized PG&E after it emerges from Chapter 11. Alternatively, Kincade claims could be treated as an administrative priority in the pending bankruptcy proceeding and paid upon plan confirmation. In either instance, it will be important to properly document your losses and prepare your damages claim with an attorney.
Will you have to pay any legal fees to pursue your case? No. Our Kincade Fire attorneys represent clients under a contingency fee arrangement. This means you do not pay any case costs, litigation expenses, or attorneys’ fees out of pocket. Instead, we recover fees and costs as a percentage of the amount recovered on your behalf and only if your case is successful. We invite your questions about our firm’s contingency rate and why we have lowered this percentage for our wildfire clients throughout Sonoma County.
Will the attorney take any portion of your insurance payments? No. Our law firm does not claim any percentage of your insurance coverage payments. We wish to see you recover the maximum amount under your policy following this disaster, and we are available to offer guidance to you throughout the insurance claims process.
What is the deadline for filing a claim? As with any legal case, certain time restrictions will apply to your claim (known as the statute of limitations). We encourage recent fire survivors to consult an attorney in a timely manner. An attorney can advise you of any upcoming deadlines, help you document your losses, and offer guidance on insurance and other matters that might impact your overall recovery.
Review Your Claim with a Kincade Fire Attorney
If you were impacted by the Kincade Fire, you may be entitled to pursue compensation from PG&E your losses. Our Kincade Fire attorneys have over 25 years’ experience in mass tort litigation. We currently serve as court-appointed leadership counsel in the North Bay Fires Litigation (JCCP 4955) and serve on the Official Committee of Tort Claimants in the PG&E Bankruptcy Proceeding (Case No. 19-30088). Contact us by phone or through our brief online form at any time to discuss your claim and learn how we can help.