Wrongful Death Complaint - Mathes v PGE - Filed

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Butte Fire Complaint

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<ul><li><p>~-~---</p><p>/ 2 </p><p>3 </p><p>4 </p><p>5 </p><p>6 </p><p>1 </p><p>8 </p><p>9 </p><p>lO </p><p>11 </p><p>12 </p><p>13 </p><p>14 </p><p>15 </p><p>16 </p><p>17 </p><p>18 </p><p>19 </p><p>20 </p><p>21 </p><p>22 </p><p>23 </p><p>24 </p><p>25 </p><p>26 </p><p>27 </p><p>28 </p><p>Dario de Ghetaldi - Bar No. 126782 Amanda L. Riddle - Bar No. 215221 Clare Capaceioli Velasquez - Bar No. 290466 COREY, LUZAICH, DE GHETALD!, NASTARJ &amp; RIDDLE LLP 700 EI Camino Real OCT 2 6Z015 </p><p>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 </p><p>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 </p><p>DY;_ BOWMAN t.IU ocpwy (.'Jerk -</p><p>Attorneys for Plaintiffs Stephanie Mathes and Karen Goldsmith </p><p>SUPERJOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA </p><p>COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO </p><p>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, ) </p><p>Plaintiffs, l vs. </p><p>PG&amp;E CORPORATION, a California Corporation, PACIFIC GAS &amp; ELECTRIC COMPANY, a California Corporation, ACRT, Inc., a Corporation, TREES, INC., a Corporation, and DOES 1-50, inclusive, </p><p>Defendants. </p><p>~ } ~ ) ) ) } } ~~~~~~~~~~~~~} </p><p>CGC-15-548619 CASE NO. COMPLAINT FOR: </p><p>1. NEGLIGENCE: WRONGFUL DEATH </p><p>2. STRICT LIABILITY: WRONGFUL DEATH </p><p>3. SURVIVAL ACTION </p><p>COMPLAINT </p><p>Scanned by CamScanner </p></li><li><p>2 </p><p>3 </p><p>4 </p><p>5 </p><p>6 </p><p>7 </p><p>8 </p><p>9 </p><p>10 </p><p>11 </p><p>12 </p><p>13 </p><p>14 </p><p>15 </p><p>16 </p><p>17 </p><p>18 </p><p>19 </p><p>20 </p><p>21 </p><p>22 </p><p>23 </p><p>24 </p><p>25 </p><p>26 </p><p>27 </p><p>28 </p><p>Plaintiffs STEPHANIE MATHES and KAREN GOLDSMITH, individually and as </p><p>Successors-in-Interest to the Estate of OWEN GOLDSMITH, deceased, and STEPHANIE </p><p>MATHES, as representative of the Estate of OWEN GOLDSMITII, deceased, bring this action </p><p>for damages against Defendants PG&amp;E CORPORATION, a California Corporation, PACIFIC </p><p>GAS &amp; ELECTRIC COMPANY, a California Corporation (collectively "PG&amp;E"), a </p><p>Corporation, ACRT, INC., TREES, INC., a Corporation, and DOES 1-50, inclusive, as follows: </p><p>I. INTRODUCTION </p><p>1. PG&amp;E has a long history of failing to maintain its infrastructure and making poor </p><p>decisions that result in safety lapses. These safety lapses have led to disasters that result in </p><p>wrongful death, personal injury, and destruction of property. In this case, PG&amp;E failed to properly inspect its electrical lines and maintain the surrounding vegetation, by its own acts or </p><p>through the acts of its agents. As a result, on the afternoon of September 9, 2015, a tree struck a </p><p>12,000-volt PG&amp;E power line on Butte Mountain Road, in Jackson, California. Sparks flew and </p><p>ignited what has since been named "The Butte Fire." </p><p>2. Over the next week, the Butte Fire spread rapidly, causing extensive damage </p><p>within Amador and Calaveras Counties. Over 4,000 firefighters battled the blaze. The fire was </p><p>not reported contained until October 1, 2015. The Butte Fire burned more than 70,000 acres, </p><p>destroying and damaging 475 residences, 343 outbuildings, and 45 other structures. The fire also </p><p>left tens of thousands of dead or dying trees, and the risk of water pollution and erosion in its </p><p>wake. Two people lost their lives as a result of the Butte Fire and thousands of residents and </p><p>property owners were significantly burdened. </p><p>3. One of those residents was Owen Goldsmith. Owen Goldsmith was found in his </p><p>home by firefighters on September 15, 2015, having perished in the Butte Fire. At the time of his </p><p>death, Owen Goldsmith, 82, lived in the home he owned in Mountain Ranch, Calaveras County. </p><p>Born in Borger, Texas, Owen Goldsmith served as a staff sergeant in the United States Air Force </p><p>from 1951 to 1955. He went on to graduate magna cum laude in music at then~San Francisco </p><p>State College and got his master's degree in music from the college in 1965. Owen Goldsmith </p><p>was a prolific music composer, having taught choir and orchestra to high school and college </p><p>2 </p><p>COMPLAINT </p></li><li><p>students. Mr. Goldsmith had two beloved daughters: Plaintiffs Stephanie Mathes and Karen </p><p>2 Goidsmith. </p><p>3 </p><p>4 </p><p>5 </p><p>6 </p><p>7 </p><p>8 </p><p>9 </p><p>10 </p><p>1 1 </p><p>12 </p><p>13 </p><p>14 </p><p>15 </p><p>16 </p><p>17 </p><p>18 </p><p>19 </p><p>20 </p><p>21 </p><p>22 </p><p>23 </p><p>24 </p><p>25 </p><p>26 </p><p>27 </p><p>28 </p><p>4. In this ease, PG&amp;E and its agents ACRT, Inc., and Trees, Inc., negligently </p><p>maintained and operated its electrical infrastructure, and failed to maintain the surrounding </p><p>vegetation within the applicable regulations and law. As a result, hundreds of residents lost their </p><p>homes, Owen Goldsmith lost his life, and Plaintiffs Stephanie Mathes and Karen Goldsmith lost </p><p>their father. </p><p>II. JURISDICTION AND VENUE </p><p>5. This Court has personal jurisdiction over Defendants. PG&amp;E Corporation and Pacific Gas &amp; Electric Company are incorporated in California and have and continue to do </p><p>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 </p><p>vegetation management contractor. Defendant Trees, Inc., is a privately owned corporation </p><p>conducting business in California as a tree maintenance corporation for utility companies. In </p><p>addition, a substantial part of the events that caused Plaintiffs' injuries occurred in the County of San Francisco, within the State of California. </p><p>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, </p><p>with at least two of them having their principal plaee of business in this County, and a substantial </p><p>part of the events, acts, omissions, and transactions complained of herein occurred in this </p><p>County. </p><p>III. THE PARTIES </p><p>8. Plaintiff Stephanie Mathes is the loving daughter of Owen Goldsmith. She brings </p><p>certain claims herein, specified below, as the natural daughter of Owen Goldsmith, pursuant to </p><p>Code of Civil Procedure 377.60. Additionally, on October 26, 2015, Plaintiff Stephanie </p><p>Mathes filed with the Superior Court of California, County of Calaveras, the Estate of Owen </p><p>Goldsmith. In the filing, Plaintiff Stephanie Mathes seeks to have the Court appoint her as the </p><p>3 </p><p>COMPLAl:-.IT </p></li><li><p>administrator of the Estate of Owen Goldsmith. She is thus lawfully entitled to pursue all claims </p><p>2 and causes of action for damages, loss, or destruction of assets of the Estate pursuant to Code of </p><p>3 Civil Procedure 377.30. 4 9. Plaintiff Karen Goldsmith is the loving daughter of Owen Goldsmith. She brings </p><p>5 certain claims herein, specified below, as the natural daughter of Owen Goldsmith, pursuant to </p><p>6 Code of Civil Procedure 377.60. </p><p>7 I 0. Owen Goldsmith was the natural father of Plaintiffs Stephanie ~athes and Karen </p><p>8 Goldsmith. At the time of his death, he owned and occupied 6003 Eagle View Drive, Mountain </p><p>9 Ranch, California.' </p><p>10 IL Defendant PG&amp;E Corporation, is incorporated in California and based in San </p><p>11 Francisco, California. At all times mentioned herein, it has acted to provide electrical services to </p><p>12 members of the public in California, including, Amador and Calaveras Counties. </p><p>13 12. Defendant Pacific Gas &amp; Electric Company, a subsidiary corporation of PG&amp;E </p><p>14 Corporation, is incorporated in California and based in San Francisco, California. It is one of the </p><p>15 largest combination natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. At all times herein </p><p>16 mentioned, Pacific Gas &amp; Electric Company provided electric service to millions of customers in </p><p>17 Northern and Central California, including to the residents of Amador and Calaveras Counties, </p><p>18 through its electric transmission and distribution systems. </p><p>19 13. Defendant ACRT, Inc., is utility vegetation management company, doing business </p><p>20 all over the United States. Plaintiffs are informed and believe that at all times mentioned herein, </p><p>21 ACRT, Inc., was the agent of PG&amp;E and acting within the course and scope of that agency. </p><p>22 14. Defendant Trees, Inc., is one of the largest utility vegetation management service </p><p>23 companies in the United States. Plaintiffs are informed and believe that at all times mentioned </p><p>24 herein, Trees, Inc., was the agent of PG&amp;E and acting within the course and scope of that agency. </p><p>25 15. The true names and capacities, whether individual, corporate, associate or </p><p>26 otherwise of1he Defendants sued herein as DOES 1 through 50 are unknown to Plaintiffs who </p><p>27 </p><p>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. </p><p>4 </p><p>COMPLAJNT </p></li><li><p>therefore sue said Defendants by such fictitious names. Plaintiffs will amend this complaint to </p><p>2 show their true names and capacities when the same are ascertained. Plaintiffs are informed and </p><p>3 believe and thereon allege that each of said fictitious Defendants is in some manner negligently </p><p>4 and/or legally responsible for the occurrences herein alleged, and that Plaintiffs' damages as </p><p>5 herein alleged were legally caused by such Defendants, and each of them. </p><p>6 16. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereon allege that at all times herein </p><p>7 mentioned, Defendants, and each of them, were the partners, principals, agents, employees, </p><p>8 servants and joint venturers of each other Co-defendants, and in doing the things hereinafter 9 mentioned were acting within the course and scope of their authority and relationship as such </p><p>10 partners, principals, agents, employees, servants and joint venturers with the permission, 11 knowledge, and consent of each other co-Defendants. </p><p>12 IV. THE FACTS </p><p>13 1 7. PG&amp;E' s safety record is an abomination. PG&amp;E has and continues to ~put its </p><p>14 own profits before the safety of the California residents whom it serves. The Butte Fire fell on </p><p>15 the fifth year anniversary of the rupture and explosion of PG&amp;E' s 30-inch transmission </p><p>16 pipeline under a residential neighborhood in San Bruno, California. That explosion and ensuing </p><p>1 7 fire killed eight people, injured dozens of others, and destroyed and damaged I 00 homes. The 18 neighborhood still has not fully recovered from the horrifying experience. The CPUC fined </p><p>19 PG&amp;E $1.6 billion for safety violations that lead to the San Bruno Explosion. 20 18. In the years prior to the San Bruno Explosion, PG&amp;E had several other incidents </p><p>21 that caused injury and death to California residents, and destroyed properties: 22 a. 1981: A PG&amp;E gas main in downtown San Francisco exploded, forcing </p><p>23 30,000 people to evacuate. It took workers nine hours to shut off the gas </p><p>24 main' s manual shut off valves and stop the flow of gas that continued to </p><p>25 </p><p>26 </p><p>27 </p><p>28 </p><p>b. </p><p>feed the flames in the interim. </p><p>1992: Two people were killed and three others were injured when a PG&amp;E gas line exploded in Santa Rosa. The pipeline was improperly marked, </p><p>failing to give proper notice to contractors working in the area. A </p><p>5 </p><p>COMPLAINT </p></li><li><p>2 </p><p>3 </p><p>4 </p><p>5 </p><p>6 </p><p>7 </p><p>8 </p><p>9 </p><p>10 </p><p>11 </p><p>12 </p><p>13 </p><p>14 </p><p>15 </p><p>16 </p><p>17 </p><p>18 </p><p>19 </p><p>20 </p><p>21 </p><p>23 </p><p>24 </p><p>25 </p><p>26 </p><p>27 </p><p>28 </p><p>c. </p><p>d. </p><p>e. </p><p>f. </p><p>g. </p><p>h. </p><p>contractor hit the pipe with a backhoe, causing the pipe to leak several </p><p>months later. </p><p>1998: A CPUC report found that PG&amp;E had misdirected $77.6 million that </p><p>was to be used to trim trees near power lines, which, as we know from the </p><p>instant case, is a necessary part of preventing wildfires, and redirected it </p><p>into corporate profits. </p><p>1997: A Nevada County jury found PG&amp;E guilty of 739 misdemeanor counts of criminal negligence for a pattern of tree-trimming violations that </p><p>sparked a devastating 1994 wildfire in the Sierras. The fire burned down a </p><p>schoolhouse and 12 homes near the scenic Gold Rush town of Rough and </p><p>Ready. </p><p>1999: A rotten pine, which the government said PG&amp;E should have </p><p>removed, fell on a power line, starting the Pendola Fire. It burned for 11 </p><p>days and scorched 11, 725 acres, mainly in the Tahoe and Plumas national </p><p>forests. PG&amp;E paid a $14.75 million settlement to the U.S. Forest Service </p><p>in 2009. That year, the utility also reached a $22.7 million settlement with </p><p>the CPUC after regulators found PG&amp;E had not spent money earmarked </p><p>for tree trimming and removal toward those purposes. </p><p>2003: One third of San Francisco lost power following a fire at PG&amp;E's </p><p>Mission District Substation. The fire burned for nearly two hours before </p><p>PG&amp;E workers arrived on the scene to discover the damage. </p><p>2005: A PG&amp;E electrical transformer exploded beneath the San Francisco </p><p>financial district, severely burning a woman who had been walking by. </p><p>2008: An explosion and fire caused by a natural gas leak destroyed a </p><p>residence in Rancho Cordova, California, killing one person, injuring five others and causing damage to several other nearby homes. The cause of </p><p>the explosion was the use of a section of unmarked and out-of-</p><p>6 </p><p>COMPLA!NT </p></li><li><p>2 </p><p>3 </p><p>4 </p><p>5 </p><p>6 </p><p>7 </p><p>8 </p><p>9 </p><p>10 </p><p>11 </p><p>12 </p><p>13 </p><p>14 </p><p>15 </p><p>16 </p><p>17 </p><p>18 </p><p>19 </p><p>20 </p><p>21 </p><p>22 </p><p>23 </p><p>24 </p><p>25 </p><p>26 </p><p>27 </p><p>28 </p><p>19. </p><p>specification pipe with inadequate wall thickness that allowed gas to leak </p><p>from a mechanical coupiing instalied approximately two years earlier. </p><p>Two years ago, PG&amp;E and its contractors agreed to pay a $50.5 million to settle </p><p>claims over the Power Fire of2004 that burned 13,000 acres of Eldorado National Forest, and a </p><p>2008 blaze known as the Whiskey Fire that burned more than 5,000 acres of Mendocino National </p><p>Forest. </p><p>20. As part of its system of providing electricity to members of the public in Amador </p><p>and Calaveras Counties, PG&amp;E owned, installed, constructed, operated and maintained overhead </p><p>power lines, together with supporting poles and appwienances, throughout Amador and </p><p>Calaveras Counties, for the purpose of conducting electricity for delivery to the members of the </p><p>general public. Such lines existed near Butte Mountain Road, east of Jackson, California. </p><p>21. Electrical infrastructure is inherently dangerous and hazardous. The transmission </p><p>and distribution of electricity requires an increased level of care in line with the increased risk of </p><p>danger. Defendants, and each of them, had a duty to properly maintain and repair the electric </p><p>transmission lines and to keep vegetation properly trimmed and maintained so as to prevent it </p><p>coming in contact with power lines. In the construction, repair, maintenance and operation of the </p><p>power lines, Defendants, and each of them, had an obligation to comply with legal standards, </p><p>statutes and regulations, including, but not limited to Public Resource Code 4292, Public </p><p>Resource Code 4293, CPUC General Order No. 95, and CPUC General Order No. 165. </p><p>Defendants, and each of them, were aware that these requirements were the minimum standards </p><p>to be followed, and that they were required to consider the surrounding circumstances when </p><p>determining how to keep the lines safe. Defendants, and each of them, were further aware that a </p><p>failure to do so constituted negligence and would expose members of the general public to risk of </p><p>death or injury. 22. At all times herein m...</p></li></ul>