Electric Utility Co. Faces 3rd Class Trial Over Damage from Massive Wildfires, Watch Online via CVN

Posted by David Siegel on Feb 28, 2024 2:00:23 PM

Rosinia openings

CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Nicholas Rosinia delivering his opening statement

Portland, OR - An Oregon state court jury heard opening statements Tuesday in the third trial in class action litigation stemming from widespread wildfires that plaintiffs blame on electric utility company PacifiCorp, and the full proceedings are being webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.

Attorneys for nine members of a certified class who lost property in the 2020 wind-driven Labor Day Fire, along with a camp for disabled children that was destroyed in the blaze, are seeking roughly $5 million each after accusing PacifiCorp of responsibility for the fire due to not deactivating their power lines ahead of the storm.

PacifiCorp maintained they took appropriate action to prevent their lines from sparking fires ahead of the predicted storm but argued a full shutdown, as plaintiffs say was prudent, would have had a detrimental impact on emergency facilities like hospitals and other first responders.

However last year another Oregon state jury found PacifiCorp liable for damages to the full class of roughly 5,000 members (an estimated figure that PacifiCorp disputes) arising from the fact roughly 2,500 properties were damaged or destroyed in the fire - many of them residential homes. That jury awarded $72 million in compensatory damages and $18 million in punitive damages to 17 class members.

Multnomah Circuit Judge Stefan Alexander, who is presiding over the sprawling litigation, then initiated a somewhat novel process of “mini-bellwether” trials to determine additional damages for other class members. One of those trials concluded last month, resulting in an award of $62 million to nine class members.

Both of the previous trials were recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network and are available for on-demand viewing, among hundreds of other civil trials, with a subscription to CVN’s online trial video library.


A third trial is scheduled for mid-April, after which Judge Alexander will likely order the parties into mediation to attempt to resolve the remaining class claims using the four jury verdicts to date as guideposts to determine the contours of a larger resolution.

During Tuesday’s openings, plaintiff attorney Nicholas Rosinia of Edelson PC explained that with liability already determined the only way for PacifiCorp to take responsibility for their alleged misconduct is by fairly compensating the property owners.

“You get to hold PacifiCorp accountable for what it’s done,” Rosinia told the jury.

However defense attorney Alison Pressman of Hueston Hennigan criticized the $5 million Rosinia requested for each plaintiff as “arbitrary” - stressing to jurors that while PacifiCorp would not contest “reasonable” damages the plaintiffs still had the burden to prove their requested damages are commensurate with their actual losses in the fire.

“You have to start at zero,” Pressman said.

pacificorp defense

CVN screenshot of defense attorney Alison Pressman delivering her opening statement

The trial is expected to take roughly a week to complete, and CVN’s live and on-demand video coverage will continue for the duration of the proceedings.

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Topics: class action, Oregon