Claims from 2010 Pipeline Explosion in Northern California to be Settled by PG & E Corp.

Nearly three years to the day after the massive San Bruno pipeline explosion that killed eight Northern California residents and injured a number of others, natural gas utility PG&E Corporation has agreed to settle most of the outstanding claims related to the incident. The September 2010 inferno was one of the most devastating natural gas pipeline explosions in American history, and this announcement marks the beginning of the end of a three-year legal process that has been beset by confusion and uncertainty. This is not the first time that industrial accident attorneys have taken PG&E to task over the San Bruno incident. In August of 2012, Fox News and other outlets reported on an accidental information leak from San Mateo County Superior Court that revealed a payout of about $2.5 million to a teenage girl who had been badly burned in the explosion. The company issued a direct payment of nearly $2 million to the girl and covered an additional $680,000 in industrial accident lawyer fees. Industrial explosion and wrongful death in industrial accident settlements are normally kept confidential, but an erroneous upload to the court’s website by an unidentified employee laid out the details of this particular agreement. At the time, this leak was viewed as an unfortunate mistake that threatened to derail processing of the more than 150 separate claims that victims had filed against PG&E. Ultimately; it may have been a blessing in disguise. After the leak, the company moved quickly to reassure the remaining claimants that their cases would be evaluated and resolved in a timely fashion. The September 10, 2013 announcement that the outstanding cases were in the final settlement stages came just over a year after the court’s mistake. According to mid-quarter regulatory filings, PG&E has now allocated a total of $455 million in settlements with individual victims and property owners in the San Bruno area. These settlements cover about 160 lawsuits filed by industrial accident attorneys and redress the grievances of over 500 individual victims. Depending on the outcome of the remaining cases, this company’s total outlay could increase significantly. Additionally, the company has already paid out $200 million in fines related to pre-explosion code violations. According to a post-incident report from the California Public Utilities Commission and Overland Consulting, PG&E could be on the hook for an additional $2.5 billion in fines, clawbacks and other financial penalties. However, it is important to note that San Bruno-area property owners who were affected by the pipeline explosion will see no direct benefit from these potential penalties. At this point, the state has not yet determined whether to use a portion of PG&E’s fines to provide additional compensation for local victims. Both sides expect a final ruling on PG&E’s liability and the terms of any further regulatory action by the end of 2013. Meanwhile, representatives from the PCUC and PG&E appeared in court on September 12 to discuss the structure of the recently agreed settlements as well as the timetable for the settlement of pending claims against the company. As of June 30, 2013, the company has only used about $330 million of the nearly $1 billion insurance reserve that it had set aside for claims related to the San Bruno incident. Another filing is expected shortly after September 30. It is likely that PG&E will report that it has at least $500 million of outstanding insurance funds to allocate for future claims. Due to the complex, time-sensitive nature of this situation, San Bruno residents and property owners who believe that they may have a claim related to the San Bruno pipeline explosion should contact an industrial accident lawyer at soon as possible. There is still time to secure redress for losses incurred in the September 2010 tragedy by filing property damage, personal injury and wrongful death in industrial accident claims.