A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against Southern California Edison (SCE) and Edison International by Wildfire Victim Advocates attorneys on behalf of victims of the Montecito Mudslides. Plaintiffs include Santa Barbara County native and mother Carie Baker-Corey whose life was forever changed on January 9, 2018 after she and twin daughters Summer & Sawyer Corey (12) and their half-sister Morgan Corey (25) were abruptly swept away by a fast-moving debris flow that swallowed-up their home and forced them down Montecito Creek. Carie and Summer were pulled from the debris alive, having suffered life-threatening injuries. Sawyer and Morgan did not survive.
Attorneys Brian Panish and Rahul Ravipudi of Panish | Shea | Boyle | Ravipudi LLP and Jason Wansor and Travis Logue of Rogers, Sheffield & Campbell LLP were joined by Ms. Baker-Corey and PSBR attorney Lyssa Roberts at a press conference to announce the filing and answer questions pertaining to the lawsuit.
Watch the press conference here.
The 54-page complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on March 28, alleges the Thomas Fire and Montecito Mudslides were the inevitable byproducts of SCE’s willful and conscious disregard of public safety. The Los Angeles-based utility knew about California’s longstanding drought conditions and the significant risk of power-line wildfires stemming from its unsafe equipment, aging infrastructure and ineffective vegetation management system for many years before the Thomas Fire began.
Despite this knowledge, and with strong Santa Ana winds and an abundance of dry vegetation elevating the fire risk, SCE put profits over safety and elected not to de-energizer its electrical facilities in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties to minimize the risk of fire and protect the community it serviced. Had SCE acted responsibly and promoted public safety, the Thomas Fire and subsequent mudslides in Montecito could have been prevented, and the lives of Plaintiffs’ beloved daughters and sisters spared.
“You’ve heard just one story about what happened to Carie’s family but many people have similar stories that have woken up in the middle of the night, lost a loved one. No time to say goodbye. No time to get their affairs in order. No time to prepare. The unexpected death keeps no calendar, it never stops in your mind.” said Brian Panish. “The closure hopefully will be getting something out of this lawsuit that will make it not happen to anyone else.”
The law firms of Panish | Shea | Boyle | Ravipudi LLP, Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP, and Rogers Sheffield & Campbell LLP seek justice for residents and businesses affected by the Thomas Fire and Montecito Mudslides and have joined forces and resources to investigate and prosecute claims for which SCE is responsible. Fires caused by the failure of power lines and poorly maintained equipment owned and operated by utility companies regularly ranks among the top sources of wildfires throughout California. 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.
The Thomas Fire burned 281,893 acres and severely damaged the watersheds in Santa Barbara County, setting in motion a chain of horrific events that has devastated families and the community they call home. A landscape once covered with dense thickets of chaparral, brush and tall grass were left barren by the Thomas Fire and when the rain began to fall, deadly flash floods and mudslides swept through Montecito neighborhoods in the early hours of January 9, 2018. Hundreds of homes were destroyed or damaged, dozens of people were injured and 21 lives were lost – the cause of death of each victim identified by the County coroner as “multiple traumatic injures due to flash flood with mudslides due to recent wildfire.”
Nearly three months after the Montecito Mudslide began, two people still remain missing.
KNX 1070 In-Depth (March 29, 2018)