Jury finds electric utility PacifiCorp liable in devastating Oregon wildfires
Jun 12, 2023, 11:18 AM
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A jury in Oregon has found electric utility PacifiCorp responsible for causing devastating fires during Labor Day 2020 in a civil lawsuit.
The jury returned its decision Monday, saying the utility should be held financially liable for homes destroyed in the blaze. The jury awarded millions of dollars each to 17 homeowners who sued PacifiCorp a month after the fires.
The jury also applied its liability finding to a larger class including the owners of nearly 2,500 properties damaged in the fires, which could push the price tag for damages to more than $1 billion.
There has been no official cause determined for the 2020 Labor Day fires that killed nine people, burned more than 1,875 square miles (4,856 square kilometers) in Oregon and destroyed upward of 5,000 homes and structures. The blazes together were one of the worst natural disaster’s in Oregon history.
The Portland utility, one of several owned by billionaire Warren Buffett’s Omaha, Nebraska-based investment conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, didn’t shut off power to its 600,000 customers during the windstorm over Labor Day weekend in 2020 despite warnings from then-Gov. Kate Brown’s chief-of-staff and top fire officials, plaintiffs alleged. Its lines have been implicated in multiple blazes, one of which started in its California service territory and burned into Oregon.