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

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Utility company PacifiCorp has settled a lawsuit brought by about 220 customers affected by devastating wildfires in southern Oregon in 2020 for $299 million. I plan to pay $.

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

Washington power company sued for allegedly igniting deadly wildfires

The company said PacifiCorp inadvertently cut off power to 600,000 customers during the 2020 Labor Day weekend storm, despite warnings from state leaders and fire officials. The company is facing multiple lawsuits from property owners and residents who claim the power lines were the cause of their power outages. Multiple fires.

The fire was one of the worst natural disasters in Oregon history. They killed nine people, burned more than 1,875 square miles (4,856 square kilometers), and destroyed more than 5,000 homes and other structures.

The lawsuit alleges that the utility company failed to shut off power during the major storm.

The settlement ends a three-year legal battle with victims of the Archie Creek Fire, which devastated communities along the North Umpqua River east of Roseburg. The amount is much smaller than the damages a jury awarded to another group of homeowners in June in connection with four other fires around the state.

In a June lawsuit, a jury ordered PacifiCorp to pay more than $70 million to 17 homeowners, but additional payments to a broader group of victims that could include owners of about 2,500 properties. The amount of damages will be determined in the future. This judgment was in addition to previous judgments that were expected to reach billions of dollars.

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

The settlement announced Tuesday avoids the risk of the utility going to trial and being ordered to pay additional damages, including for emotional distress.

PacifiCorp said in a regulatory filing that the settlement amount is consistent with amounts previously estimated and established for wildfire accounting reserves.

“PacifiCorp is committed to settling and resolving 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 PacifiCorp has helped hundreds of homeowners and businesses receive real estate and personal property damage and alternative living expenses insurance proceeds. The insurance claim was resolved.”

The plaintiff’s lawyer declined to comment on the details, but he did offer a rare compliment to the company for settling the case.

“I congratulate PacifiCorp’s new CEO and general counsel for standing up and doing the right thing for the ratepayers who lost their homes in the 2020 Labor Day fires,” said Mikal, co-lead attorney for the plaintiffs.・Mr. Watts stated. statement. “Today’s settlement is the result of great legal counsel and great corporate leadership.”

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More lawsuits are likely. PacifiCorp, owned by billionaire Warren Buffett’s investment conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, informed in another recent financial report that some government agencies are considering legal action against the company. He said he was doing so. According to the company, the total damages sought in the lawsuits filed so far are approximately $8 billion, excluding cases in which a jury determines that the utility’s conduct was egregious enough to warrant punitive damages. double or triple the amount of damages that could be incurred.

PacifiCorp asked state regulators to limit liability to actual damages. Damages are determined by attempting to total property losses and other costs incurred by victims as a result of the wildfire. State regulators have not yet made a decision.

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