PG&E was charged earlier this month with 12 pipeline safety violations by the federal government. The criminal charges are in connection with a 2010 natural gas explosion that killed eight people in San Bruno, California. San Bruno is 12 miles south of San Francisco.

The explosion occurred in September 2010. A natural gas pipeline that was about 30 inches in diameter, located under a street in a residential area, exploded, which created a crater that was about 72 feet by 26 feet. Thirty-eight homes were completely destroyed, and another 70 were damaged. Tragically, eight people were killed, and 66 suffered injuries.

After a long investigation, federal and state official found that there was negligent management and poor quality controls at PG&E. It was also determined that PG&E emphasized profits over safety. The accident has cost PG&E approximately $1.4 billion in safety work, as well as expenses. Following the accident, the former chairman and the CEO retired. Fortunately, since the accident, over 127 miles of pipeline have been replaced, and a gas control center has been opened. California regulators have proposed a $2.25 billion penalty for the explosion. This may result in the company entering bankruptcy.

The criminal charges could carry a fine of $6 million, or even more if the court decides the company financially benefitted from the disaster. Federal prosecutors claim that PG&E intentionally relied on wrong and incomplete data when it decided whether the pipeline was safe. Even after the company’s inspectors found problems, the company failed to act on them. PG&E has alleged that the criminal charges have no merit, and that no laws were intentionally violated, but instead, mistakes were made. Currently, no individual PG&E employees or officials have been criminally charged, but those charges could come later if an investigation turns up more facts regarding criminal culpability.

This story illustrates how vitally important it is that companies take actions to ensure that their products are safe for customers. This is particularly true for companies like PG&E, where mistakes can cost lives and demolish homes. In general, companies have a duty to sell products that are safe. When they fail to do so, they can be held financially responsible through a product liability lawsuit. Not only may the manufacturer be held liable, but also the retailer, the manufacturer of component parts, and other parties.

Not only do companies have a liability to make products that are safe, it’s also critical that they do not act negligently. If a company acts negligently, and that negligence harms another party, the company can be held liable for any damages that result from the negligence.

If you are the victim of a defective product, it’s important that you contact a product liability attorney. However, you should be aware that product liability cases can be very complex. Often, experts must be involved who can show which party was at fault for the defects. Several defendants are often involved, and liability must be attributed to each of them. Each defendant may have one or more defenses to the lawsuit. Also, there could be federal or state laws in place that would have an effect on your product liability lawsuit. It’s important that whichever attorney you choose has experience with product liability cases in California.

If you have been injured by a defective product in California, such as the defective natural gas line, a defective child’s car seat, or a recalled vehicle, or because of another party’s negligence, call Micha Star Liberty of Liberty Law, product liability attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that companies that make millions or even billions in profits each year should be forced to pay for damages that are caused by a failure of one of their products or because of their negligent actions. If you would like to learn more about your legal rights, call Micha Star Liberty today to schedule your consultation. She works with clients throughout the Oakland-San Francisco Bay area. Call to learn more.

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