Oregon Wildfire Victims Settle for $299 Million in Lawsuit Against PacifiCorp
When the Archie Creek Fire was started in 2020, roughly 170 homes were destroyed and 130,000 acres were burned to the ground. Along with it came many, many lawsuits against PacifiCorp, the parent company of Oregon electric utility Pacific Power.
Useful: Oregon fire Map.
The lawsuits claimed that the company ignored several very alarming warning signs that there would be a windstorm over Labor Day weekend, one that could pose a significant risk of starting a fire. The summer was particularly dry that year, leaving Oregon’s forests in danger of being caught in a forest fire, and because Pacific Power allegedly did not turn off their power for Labor Day weekend, Oregon experienced its most devastating wildfire season on record.
Well, PacifiCorp has decided to finally settle lawsuits to pay more than $299 million in restitution for over 460 Oregonians impacted by the fires. In a statement, they claimed they were settling to resolve reasonable claims for actual damages.
This is a definite change from their last round of lawsuits, where they tried and failed to defend their position. Before this settlement, PacifiCorp had already been found negligent by a jury for damages to 17 different property owners across Oregon, with the costs reaching $90 million so far. PacifiCorp plans on appealing the ruling, having argued that climate change was responsible for the fires, not their equipment.
“The 2020 wildfires were undeniably tragic,” they said in the statement, “and PacifiCorp is pleased to resolve this matter.”
Many were thankful that the lawsuit was settled without trial, meaning the victims wouldn’t have to go through the grief of such a difficult time. He praised PacifiCorp for this decision. Speaking for them was Mikal Watts, an attorney from Texas-based law firm Watts Guerra. He had only good things to say about the company’s decision.
In a written statement, Watts said, “I want to congratulate the new CEO and the General Counsel of PacifiCorp for stepping up and doing the right thing by their ratepayers who lost their homes during the Labor Day 2020 fires. The settlement is the result of one thing — good lawyers and good corporate leadership.”
Not everyone is as confident in speaking about the “good corporate leadership” in PacifiCorp, for they have many more problems ahead in terms of litigation.
Now that we know that the victims will get properly paid for the damages done, you would think that this would be the end of PacifiCorp’s problems, but no. They aren’t off the hook quite yet, as there are many still awaiting to say their own piece; preferably in a courtroom.
Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Steffan Alexander has three trials scheduled early next year to determine whether or not twenty additional plaintiffs will receive restitutions. Wine growers and logging companies have alleged that they’ve been negatively impacted by the destruction the fires have done to their resources.
There are also many, many more Oregonians awaiting their day in court. Jurors have found PacifiCorp potentially liable for damages to the thousands who signed on to a class action lawsuit for restitution.
Unlike this most recent settlement, PacifiCorp plans on fighting this class action lawsuit. Whether or not things will be ruled in their favor remains to be seen, but it’s not looking good. Their stocks have been plummeting since this most recent ruling, and many wonder if this will be the end of Pacific Power. Unlikely, but it seems like the legal battles are never-ending for them.
And this is all because they didn’t shut the power off for a day or two.