wrongful death complaint - mathes v pge - filed

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Butte Fire Complaint

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    Dario de Ghetaldi - Bar No. 126782 Amanda L. Riddle - Bar No. 215221 Clare Capaceioli Velasquez - Bar No. 290466 COREY, LUZAICH, DE GHETALD!, NASTARJ & RIDDLE LLP 700 EI Camino Real OCT 2 6Z015

    CLERK OF THE COURy P.O. Box 669 Millbrae, California 94030-0669 Telephone: (650) 871-5666 Facsunile: (650} 871-4144 deg@coreylaw.com alr@coreylaw.com

    Michael S. Danko Bar No. 1I1359 Kristine K. Meredith Bar No. 158243 DANKO MEREDITH 333 Twin Dolphin Drive, Suite 145 Redwood Shores, CA 94065 Telephone: (650) 453-3600 Facsimile: (650) 394-8672 mdanko@dankolaw.eom kmeredith@dankolaw.com

    DY;_ BOWMAN t.IU ocpwy (.'Jerk -

    Attorneys for Plaintiffs Stephanie Mathes and Karen Goldsmith

    SUPERJOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

    COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO

    STEPHANIE MATHES and KAREN } GOLDSMITH, individually and as ) Successors-in-Interest to the Estate of OWEN ) GOLDSMITH, deceased, and STEPHANIE } MATHES, as representative of the Estate of } OWEN GOLDSMITH, deceased, )

    Plaintiffs, l vs.

    PG&E CORPORATION, a California Corporation, PACIFIC GAS & ELECTRIC COMPANY, a California Corporation, ACRT, Inc., a Corporation, TREES, INC., a Corporation, and DOES 1-50, inclusive,

    Defendants.

    ~ } ~ ) ) ) } } ~~~~~~~~~~~~~}

    CGC-15-548619 CASE NO. COMPLAINT FOR:

    1. NEGLIGENCE: WRONGFUL DEATH

    2. STRICT LIABILITY: WRONGFUL DEATH

    3. SURVIVAL ACTION

    COMPLAINT

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    Plaintiffs STEPHANIE MATHES and KAREN GOLDSMITH, individually and as

    Successors-in-Interest to the Estate of OWEN GOLDSMITH, deceased, and STEPHANIE

    MATHES, as representative of the Estate of OWEN GOLDSMITII, deceased, bring this action

    for damages against Defendants PG&E CORPORATION, a California Corporation, PACIFIC

    GAS & ELECTRIC COMPANY, a California Corporation (collectively "PG&E"), a

    Corporation, ACRT, INC., TREES, INC., a Corporation, and DOES 1-50, inclusive, as follows:

    I. INTRODUCTION

    1. PG&E has a long history of failing to maintain its infrastructure and making poor

    decisions that result in safety lapses. These safety lapses have led to disasters that result in

    wrongful death, personal injury, and destruction of property. In this case, PG&E failed to properly inspect its electrical lines and maintain the surrounding vegetation, by its own acts or

    through the acts of its agents. As a result, on the afternoon of September 9, 2015, a tree struck a

    12,000-volt PG&E power line on Butte Mountain Road, in Jackson, California. Sparks flew and

    ignited what has since been named "The Butte Fire."

    2. Over the next week, the Butte Fire spread rapidly, causing extensive damage

    within Amador and Calaveras Counties. Over 4,000 firefighters battled the blaze. The fire was

    not reported contained until October 1, 2015. The Butte Fire burned more than 70,000 acres,

    destroying and damaging 475 residences, 343 outbuildings, and 45 other structures. The fire also

    left tens of thousands of dead or dying trees, and the risk of water pollution and erosion in its

    wake. Two people lost their lives as a result of the Butte Fire and thousands of residents and

    property owners were significantly burdened.

    3. One of those residents was Owen Goldsmith. Owen Goldsmith was found in his

    home by firefighters on September 15, 2015, having perished in the Butte Fire. At the time of his

    death, Owen Goldsmith, 82, lived in the home he owned in Mountain Ranch, Calaveras County.

    Born in Borger, Texas, Owen Goldsmith served as a staff sergeant in the United States Air Force

    from 1951 to 1955. He went on to graduate magna cum laude in music at then~San Francisco

    State College and got his master's degree in music from the college in 1965. Owen Goldsmith

    was a prolific music composer, having taught choir and orchestra to high school and college

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    COMPLAINT

  • students. Mr. Goldsmith had two beloved daughters: Plaintiffs Stephanie Mathes and Karen

    2 Goidsmith.

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    4. In this ease, PG&E and its agents ACRT, Inc., and Trees, Inc., negligently

    maintained and operated its electrical infrastructure, and failed to maintain the surrounding

    vegetation within the applicable regulations and law. As a result, hundreds of residents lost their

    homes, Owen Goldsmith lost his life, and Plaintiffs Stephanie Mathes and Karen Goldsmith lost

    their father.

    II. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

    5. This Court has personal jurisdiction over Defendants. PG&E Corporation and Pacific Gas & Electric Company are incorporated in California and have and continue to do

    significant business in California so as to render the exercise of jurisdiction over it by the California courts consistent with traditional notions of fairness and substantial justice. Defendant ACRT, Inc., is a privately owned corporation conducting business in California as a utility

    vegetation management contractor. Defendant Trees, Inc., is a privately owned corporation

    conducting business in California as a tree maintenance corporation for utility companies. In

    addition, a substantial part of the events that caused Plaintiffs' injuries occurred in the County of San Francisco, within the State of California.

    6. The amount of controversy exceeds the jurisdictional minimum of this Court. 7. Venue is proper in this County as Defendants perform business in this County,

    with at least two of them having their principal plaee of business in this County, and a substantial

    part of the events, acts, omissions, and transactions complained of herein occurred in this

    County.

    III. THE PARTIES

    8. Plaintiff Stephanie Mathes is the loving daughter of Owen Goldsmith. She brings

    certain claims herein, specified below, as the natural daughter of Owen Goldsmith, pursuant to

    Code of Civil Procedure 377.60. Additionally, on October 26, 2015, Plaintiff Stephanie

    Mathes filed with the Superior Court of California, County of Calaveras, the Estate of Owen

    Goldsmith. In the filing, Plaintiff Stephanie Mathes seeks to have the Court appoint her as the

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    COMPLAl:-.IT

  • administrator of the Estate of Owen Goldsmith. She is thus lawfully entitled to pursue all claims

    2 and causes of action for damages, loss, or destruction of assets of the Estate pursuant to Code of

    3 Civil Procedure 377.30. 4 9. Plaintiff Karen Goldsmith is the loving daughter of Owen Goldsmith. She brings

    5 certain claims herein, specified below, as the natural daughter of Owen Goldsmith, pursuant to

    6 Code of Civil Procedure 377.60.

    7 I 0. Owen Goldsmith was the natural father of Plaintiffs Stephanie ~athes and Karen

    8 Goldsmith. At the time of his death, he owned and occupied 6003 Eagle View Drive, Mountain

    9 Ranch, California.'

    10 IL Defendant PG&E Corporation, is incorporated in California and based in San

    11 Francisco, California. At all times mentioned herein, it has acted to provide electrical services to

    12 members of the public in California, including, Amador and Calaveras Counties.

    13 12. Defendant Pacific Gas & Electric Company, a subsidiary corporation of PG&E

    14 Corporation, is incorporated in California and based in San Francisco, California. It is one of the

    15 largest combination natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. At all times herein

    16 mentioned, Pacific Gas & Electric Company provided electric service to millions of customers in

    17 Northern and Central California, including to the residents of Amador and Calaveras Counties,

    18 through its electric transmission and distribution systems.

    19 13. Defendant ACRT, Inc., is utility vegetation management company, doing business

    20 all over the United States. Plaintiffs are informed and believe that at all times mentioned herein,

    21 ACRT, Inc., was the agent of PG&E and acting within the course and scope of that agency.

    22 14. Defendant Trees, Inc., is one of the largest utility vegetation management service

    23 companies in the United States. Plaintiffs are informed and believe that at all times mentioned

    24 herein, Trees, Inc., was the agent of PG&E and acting within the course and scope of that agency.

    25 15. The true names and capacities, whether individual, corporate, associate or

    26 otherwise of1he Defendants sued herein as DOES 1 through 50 are unknown to Plaintiffs who

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    28 1 As of September 9, 201 the property was held by Owen L. Goldsmith, Trustee of the Owen L. Goldsmith Trust, dated May 3, 1996.

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    COMPLAJNT

  • therefore sue said Defendants by such fictitious names. Plaintiffs will amend this complaint to

    2 show their true names and capacities when the same are ascertai