Multi-Billion Dollar Class Action Trial Over Oregon’s ‘Labor Day Fire’ Begins, Watch Online via CVN

Posted by David Siegel on Apr 26, 2023 10:43:52 AM

PacifiCorp openings

CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Nicholas Rosinia (left) and defense attorney Doug Dixon (right)

Portland, OR - Opening statements in a rare class action jury trial took place Tuesday in Oregon state court in a lawsuit accusing electric utility company PacifiCorp of responsibility for widespread wildfires that took place over the Labor Day holiday in 2020, and the full trial is being webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.

The plaintiff class, comprised of roughly 2500 property owners from a number of locations impacted by the blaze, seeks potentially billions of dollars in damages from PacifiCorp, claiming the company acted negligently by failing to deactivate certain power lines amidst a powerful windstorm, and that poorly maintained vegetation around PacifiCorp facilities helped expedite the fire’s spread.

PacifiCorp, owned by Berkshire Hathaway, maintains there is no convincing evidence linking the fires directly to PacifiCorp’s power lines, and that the company took reasonable steps to minimize fire risk while still ensuring electricity supply to critical facilities like hospitals.

Tuesday's opening statements mark the beginning of the first phase of the trial to determine liability only. The sprawling trial was bifurcated, leaving jurors to only potentially consider damages after the liability phase - which alone could take eight weeks to complete - eventually concludes.

The full proceedings are being webcast and recorded both live and on-demand by CVN.


Representing the plaintiff class, attorney Nicholas Rosinia of Edelson PC told jurors that PacifiCorp “chose to do nothing” despite allegedly knowing that keeping their lines electrified during a predicted storm posed a grave risk, even supposedly blowing off warnings from the state governor’s office.

Rosinia characterized decisions by neighboring electricity providers Portland General Electric and Consumers Power Inc. to shut down their power lines as “the right thing.”

Doug Dixon of Hueston Hennigan, representing PacifiCorp, told the jury a full power shutdown was a “last resort” with serious safety implications of its own. He showed jurors satellite imagery that he said proved the main fires did not ignite near PacifiCorp’s power lines.

CVN’s gavel-to-gavel coverage of the trial will continue for the duration of the proceedings.

The case is James, et al. v. PacifiCorp., case number 20CV33885 in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

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Topics: Oregon