UNITED STATES NEWS

Oregon power company to pay nearly $300 million to settle latest lawsuit over 2020 wildfires

Dec 6, 2023, 10:19 AM | Updated: 4:50 pm

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Electricity utility PacifiCorp will pay $299 million to settle a lawsuit brought by 463 individual plaintiffs who were harmed by devastating wildfires in southern Oregon in 2020.

The settlement announced Tuesday comes after the utility lost a similar lawsuit in June for wildfires in other parts of the state, The Oregonian reported.

The utility has faced several lawsuits from property owners and residents who say PacifiCorp negligently failed to shut off power to its 600,000 customers during a windstorm over Labor Day weekend in 2020, despite warnings from state leaders and top fire officials, and that its power lines caused multiple blazes.

The fires were among the worst natural disasters in Oregon’s history. They killed nine people, burned more than 1,875 square miles (4,856 square kilometers) and destroyed upward of 5,000 homes and other structures.

The settlement ends three years of legal wrangling with victims of the Archie Creek fire, which devastated communities along the North Umpqua River east of Roseburg. It is for a much smaller amount than the damages awarded by a jury in June to a different group of homeowners in connection with four other fires that broke out around the state.

In the June case, the jury ordered PacifiCorp to pay more than $70 million to 17 homeowners, with additional damages to be determined later for a broader group of victims that could include the owners of about 2,500 properties. That award came on top of an earlier verdict expected to amount to billions of dollars.

PacifiCorp vowed to appeal the June verdict, and more trials are set for next year to determine damages for additional plaintiffs in the case.

The settlement announced Tuesday means the utility will avoid the risk of trial and being ordered to pay additional damages, such as for emotional distress.

In a regulatory filing, PacifiCorp said the settlement amounts are consistent with amounts previously estimated and established in accounting reserves for the wildfires.

“PacifiCorp has settled and is committed to settling all reasonable claims for actual damages as provided under Oregon law,” the company said in a statement. “These settlements are in addition to settlements with other individuals and businesses, and hundreds of insurance claims PacifiCorp settled where homeowners and businesses have received insurance payments for their real and personal property damages and alternative living expenses.”

The plaintiffs’ lawyers declined to comment on specifics but heaped uncharacteristic praise on the company for settling.

“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,” Mikal Watts, the plaintiffs’ co-lead counsel, said in a statement. “Today’s settlement is the result of one thing — good lawyers and good corporate leadership.”

More lawsuits could be coming. PacifiCorp, owned by billionaire Warren Buffett’s investment conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, said in another recent financial filing that some government entities have informed the company that they are considering taking legal action. Total damages sought in the lawsuits filed so far is about $8 billion, the company said, excluding any doubling or tripling of damages, which could occur if jurors decide the utility’s conduct was bad enough to merit punitive damages.

PacifiCorp has asked state regulators to limit its liabilities to only the actual damages, which are determined by attempts to total up the amount of lost property or other costs suffered by victims because of the wildfires. State regulators have not yet made a decision.

___

This story has been updated to correct the number of individual plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit to 463, not 220.

United States News

Associated Press

Pursuit of Milwaukee carjacking suspects ends with police shooting 2 teens in stolen vehicle

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A police pursuit of carjacking suspects in Milwaukee ended Thursday with police firing into the vehicle and injuring two teens, one of whom was pregnant and lost her baby, Milwaukee police said. Officers tried to stop the stolen vehicle just before 2:30 p.m. on Interstate 43 north of Milwaukee. The pursuit ended […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

2 crop dusting airplanes collided in southern Idaho, killing 1 pilot and severely injuring the other

ARCO, Idaho (AP) — Two crop dusting airplanes collided near an airport in southern Idaho on Thursday and crashed to the ground, killing one of the pilots and leaving the other with life-threatening injuries, officials said. The crash was reported at about 12:30 p.m. in an area covered by sage and grass near the airport […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Seattle police officer fired for off-duty racist comments

SEATTLE (AP) — A Seattle police officer was fired for calling his Chinese American neighbor racist and sexist slurs while off duty in 2022, according to a news report. Officer Burton Hill was fired in May, The Seattle Times reported. The termination stemmed from an altercation with his neighbor, Zhen Jin, over the disposal of […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Appeals court panel refuses to delay Trump ally Steve Bannon’s 4-month contempt prison sentence

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court panel on Thursday rejected longtime Donald Trump ally Steve Bannon’s bid to stay out of prison while he fights his conviction for defying a subpoena from the House committee that investigated the U.S. Capitol attack. Bannon is supposed to report to prison by July 1 to begin serving […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

2 killed in helicopter crash in Washington state, authorities say

BLUESTEM, Wash. (AP) — Two men died in a helicopter crash in eastern Washington state, authorities said. Lincoln County Fire District 6 Chief Brandon Larmer told KREM-TV that the helicopter had two people aboard when it crashed Wednesday afternoon. The men who died were identified Thursday as 68-year-old Ryan Sandvig, of Spokane, and 63-year-old Mark […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Gold bars and Sen. Bob Menendez’s curiosity about their price takes central role at bribery trial

NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors showed jurors at Sen. Bob Menendez ’s trial on Thursday multiple instances when he researched the value of gold as he tried to help a New Jersey businessman who authorities say bribed him with gold and cash. The evidence about the Democrat’s online searches was prominently displayed to a New […]

7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

Oregon power company to pay nearly $300 million to settle latest lawsuit over 2020 wildfires