Nicholas Rosinia · Natida Sribhibhadh · Cody Berne · Derek Johnson · Alicia Campbell
August 24, 2023 5:30 PM||TLU n DemandRegister Now
Join Nicholas Rosinia, Natida Sribhibhadh, Cody Berne, Derek Johnson and Alicia Campbell as they discuss their recent class-action wildfire verdict against PacifiCorp, an Oregon utility.
About the Case: This case arose from four devastating fires that swept across Oregon on Labor Day 2020. On the heels of an extremely hot, dry summer, an easterly windstorm blew into Oregon on Labor Day. The storm was predicted and expected across the state, and other electrical utilities made tough decisions to turn off their power lines to protect the lives and properties of their customers. PacifiCorp—a billion-dollar investor-owned utility that is part of the Berkshire Hathaway
empire—did not. PacifiCorp instead failed to act, resulting in its power lines to sparking fires across Oregon. Those fires quickly burned through the surrounding homes, communities, towns, and public and private land. All told, PacifiCorp’s fires burned thousands of homes and structures, and forced many thousands of Oregonians to flee through fire, smoke, and flames—in the middle of the night, during a pandemic—to safety.
The case was certified as an issues class action, and was bifurcated into a class-wide liability trial (during which the class representatives’ damages were to be determined) followed by an individual damages phase to determine each absent class member’s damages.
In a rarity, the class-wide liability trial went forward earlier this year. It spanned 7 weeks and resulted in a class-wide finding of liability. The jury found PacifiCorp’s actions were negligent, grossly negligent, reckless, and willful; that it had caused a trespass onto class members’ property; and that it had caused a public and a private nuisance. The jury also determined the class representatives’ individual damages, awarding a total of $3.63 million in economics, $67.5 million in noneconomics, and approximately $18 million in punitives to just the 17 class representatives. The jury also imposed a 25% punitive damage multiplier, which will be applied to all individual class members’ damages as they are determined in the future.
Damages for those individual class members—which could number up to 5,000—will be determined in a coming second phase of the case. PacifiCorp argued during trial that the jury’s verdict, coupled with punitive damages at the level awarded, could result in total liability reaching $25 billion.
During this webinar, Nick, Matt, Cody, Derek and Alicia will be joined by John Campbell of Campbell Law, LLC to discuss how big data focus groups were used to frame and focus the issues for trial, how Alicia helped with voir dire, and they will also discuss: