California regulatory judges have imposed a $1.4 billion fine against Pacific Gas & Electric. The fine stems from a 2010 gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, a San Francisco suburb. The fine is said to be the largest fine ever issued by the California Public Utilities Commission. PG&E, which is California’s largest utility, can appeal the fine.
The fine stemmed from the deadliest utility disaster in California in decades. A 30 inch natural-gas line, which was installed in 1956, ruptured in September of 2010. It destroyed over three dozen homes. The explosion was so strong that residents and the media thought an earthquake had occurred. The community attempted to rescue people, but the heat was so intense that many described it like a blowtorch. Eight people were killed, including a woman who worked for the CPUC and had been reviewing proposals relating to aging pipelines, and her 13 year old daughter.
The National Transportation Safety Board did an investigation in 2011 that found that the rupture had occurred in a weak weld in a pipeline that PG&E records had shown as being smooth and unwelded. Besides its negligence in maintaining the pipeline, PG&E also failed to shut off the natural gas feeding the fire until over and hour and a half after the explosion.
The investigation also found that PG&E’s safety management of its pipelines were not effective. The California Public Utilities Commission was also found to be negligent in regulating PG&E. This year, PG&E was also indicted on 27 counts, alleging that the utility violated legal requirements for pipeline safety. According to the feds, PG&E also lied to the National Transportation Safety Board during its investigation. If found to be guilty, PG&E faces another $1 billion in fines, in addition to the $1.4 billion already levied by the California administrative judges.
By law, an individual or a company is liable if their actions, either direct or indirect, injure a person. This is called negligence. The injured party can sue the negligent party for damages. The injured party must prove that the other party failed to exercise reasonable care that he or she was required to exercise under law, and that the injuries were obtained as a result of that failure to exercise reasonable care. Legally, the accident victim can recover compensation from the negligent party for damages, which can include past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, property damage, lost wages, and more.
The conduct by PG&E could be considered negligence, in failing to properly maintain its pipelines, and in failing to quickly shut off the gas after the explosion occurred. Some of the most common examples of negligence lawsuits include car accidents, medical malpractice, product liability, and slip and fall accidents. In all of those situations, the driver, the doctor, the product manufacturer, and the property owner had a legal duty, failed to meet that duty, and caused harm to another individual.
In a negligence lawsuit, one of the most important steps is proving that a party was at fault. In order to show the defendant was at fault, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant either did something or failed to do something that made his or her conduct unreasonable under the circumstances. Some examples of negligent behavior include a doctor failing to diagnose a tumor, allowing it to grow; a driver texting while driving; a company manufacturing a defective vehicle, and a restaurant owner who failed to clean a spill on the floor. In all of those situations, the negligent party may be held liable for the injuries that occurred because of the negligent behavior.
If you believe that you have had your legal rights violated by a negligent individual or company, you may be entitled to compensation for their negligence. Call Micha Star Liberty, San Francisco-Oakland personal injury attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. I will help you evaluate your case. Call to learn more.