PacifiCorp ordered to pay $85 million for 2020 Oregon wildfires
In a significant legal ruling, an Oregon jury has awarded $85 million to nine victims of the devastating wildfires that swept through the state in September 2020. This decision marks the latest in a series of legal challenges faced by the utility company PacifiCorp over its liability for the fires. The jury's verdict came after a six-day trial, focusing on the individual damages of the nine plaintiffs, following a class action verdict last year. The trial revealed heart-wrenching testimonies from the victims, including a man who described his and his wife's desperate escape into a river to avoid the encroaching flames and a 101-year-old World War II veteran who lost his home and decades of memories in the fire.
Landmark verdict for wildfire victims
PacifiCorp, owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, is facing billions in liabilities to homeowners affected by the wildfires. The company was found liable last June for not cutting power to its 600,000 customers despite warnings from state officials, leading to multiple blazes. The company has already settled a lawsuit for $299 million with 463 plaintiffs harmed by separate wildfires in southern Oregon over Labor Day 2020. Furthermore, PacifiCorp also reached a $250 million settlement with ten timber companies about the same fire. In its statement, the company highlighted the broader challenge of wildfires and their impact on communities and businesses, indicating its plan to appeal the case.
The broader context of the verdict
This verdict is crucial in holding utility companies accountable for their role in preventing and managing wildfires. The substantial amount awarded reflects the severity of the damage and loss the individuals and communities suffered. It also underscores the growing legal and financial risks utility companies face in the era of climate change and increasingly frequent and severe wildfires. The case sets a precedent for future lawsuits against utilities. It could lead to more stringent regulations and safety measures to prevent such disasters. Additional trials related to this case are scheduled for February and April, potentially leading to further compensation for those affected by the 2020 wildfires.
Source: The New York Times