A San Francisco Superior Court judge has set a Jan. 7 date for a trial on claims against PG&E by a small group of elderly and ill Sonoma County residents who were harmed in the 2017 Tubbs Fire.
Judge Teri Jackson also ruled that the civil jury trial will be held in San Francisco Superior Court, as requested by the plaintiffs, and not in Sonoma County Superior Court, as sought by PG&E.
The 37,000-acre Tubbs Fire in Napa and Sonoma counties, in which 22 people died, is the second deadliest California wildfire on record. The deadliest is the 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County, which killed 85 people.
Although Cal Fire announced in January that the Tubbs Fire was caused by a private electrical system in Calistoga, the 18 plaintiffs claim that PG&E should be held liable.
Most wildfire lawsuits against PG&E have been put on hold as a result of PG&E’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case, in which the utility is seeking financial reorganization to handle claims from the devastating North Bay wildfires in 2017 and 2018.
But U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali cleared the way for the Tubbs Fire trial in the state court system when he lifted a stay on that case in August. Although the 18 plaintiffs are only a few of the alleged Tubbs Fire victims, Montali said the trial will serve as a test case to aid his court in determining PG&E’s total wildfire liability.
In most of the other North Bay fires, Cal Fire has concluded that PG&E equipment was at fault.
PG&E said in a statement, “We remain committed to supporting wildfire victims and resolving their claims. PG&E will fully participate in this legal process.”
The 18 plaintiffs in the upcoming trial were given preference for the trial under a state rule that gives people who are elderly or ill priority in having their cases resolved.