SAN FRANCISCO — PG&E was back in court Tuesday, trying to figure out just how much money it may owe victims of recent wildfires caused by the utility’s equipment.
Tens of thousands of people have already filed claims, and all parties involved in the bankruptcy case generally agree that it would take far too much time and effort to settle them individually. Many wildfire victims would have to wait way too long to get paid for claims stemming from property loss to wrongful death.
That’s why PG&E and a federal judge have to figure out how to find a dollar amount that's fair -- and fast.
Monday in court, Federal Judge James Donato decided that experts will look at the averages of these different types of claims. They'll also consider how much PG&E has paid in previous settlements in similar disputes.
Mary Alexander, who represents some of the wildfire victims, said “they're trying to estimate the value of those cases so that the people can get paid through the bankruptcy an amount of money that's set aside for those victims."
PG&E has claimed responsibility for starting more than 20 wildfires, including last year's Camp Fire and most of the 2017 North Bay fires. However, the Tubbs Fire -- the most destructive of the North Bay fires -- is still up in the air. PG&E and Cal Fire have said that private electrical equipment on private property caused that one, but Tubbs Fire victims will get to make their case before a jury in state court, as they claim PG&E is responsible for that wildfire. Courthouse News Service says that trial is expected to happen in January.
Whether PG&E is liable for the Tubbs Fire means the amount they owe victims could go way up.
"Some people are still living in tents from the Camp Fire,” Alexander said. “People who have lost loved ones will be compensated, and the judge really seems to want to move this fast."
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