Panish Shea & Boyle LLP attorneys Brian Panish and Rahul Ravipudi held a press conference Thursday morning, announcing a series of lawsuits filed against Southern California Edison (SCE) on behalf of Ventura County ranchers affected by the Thomas Fire. Plaintiffs include longtime ranchers Aubrey “Bud” Sloan and his wife Kim, who lost more than 50 cattle and thousands of acres of land on their Sloan Ranch, as well as Rich and Bonnie Atmore, who fought flames with garden hoses to save their home as fire claimed their surrounding orchards, cattle and thousands of acres of Rancho Ventura Conservancy Trust land that they steward. The lawsuits were filed in Ventura County Superior Court on Wednesday, March 14, 2018.
The 50-page complaints listed below allege SCE put profits before public safety and knew about the significant risk of wildfires stemming from its unsafe equipment, aging infrastructure and ineffective vegetation management system for many years before the Thomas Fire began. Decades of documented safety violations and SCE’s chronic failure to adequately access its equipment and mitigate risks have repeatedly resulted in fines and/or citations against the utility, including over $78 million in fines levied by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) since 2007 for electric and fire-related incidents.
Wildfire Victim Advocates attorneys with the law firms of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP and attorney Robert Boatman of Gallagher & Kennedy seek justice for residents and businesses affected by the Thomas Fire and have joined forces and resources to investigate and prosecute claims for which SCE is responsible. Preliminary reports released by Ventura County estimate more than $170 million in damage has been done to the County’s agricultural industry as a result of the Thomas Fire, with avocado groves hit the hardest. Actual losses won’t be known for some time but for many ranchers and growers who have spent generations invested in their business, recovery of the land may not occur during their lifetime.
The Thomas Fire claimed lives, burned 281,893 acres, destroyed or damaged more than 1,300 structures, displaced over 100,000 residents and severely damaged the watersheds in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
To read the Atmore complaint, click here.
To read the Sloan complaint, click here.