Two more lawsuits were filed this week by insurance companies seeking nearly $30 million from Pacific Power and its parent company, PacifiCorp, for their alleged negligence in connection with the Archie Creek Fire.

Both complaints were filed Monday in Douglas County Circuit Court. Both are seeking at least $14 million from Pacific Power and PacifiCorp. The two complaints are very similar, including large sections that are identical.

One complaint was filed by Lexington Insurance Co. and State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. The other complaint was filed by 16 separate insurance companies. The insurance companies in both complaints are represented by Waylon J. Picket, an attorney with the Portland law firm Grotefeld, Hoffmann, Gordon, Ochoa & Evinger, LLC.

The complaint filed by the 16 insurance companies also involves an attorney for the plaintiffs who has experience in such lawsuits, helping orchestrate two settlements totaling more than $3 billion stemming from two fires in Southern California.

The lawsuits are almost identical to one filed late last month, also in Douglas County Circuit Court, by four other insurance companies, all based in Connecticut. Those insurance companies are seeking more than $3 million for purported negligence in the Archie Creek Fire last year. The companies are represented by Christopher J. Brennan, an attorney with the Portland law firm Bauman, Loewe, Witt & Maxwell, PLLC.

All of the complaints claim the insurance companies and their customers suffered damages due to the negligence of Pacific Power and PacifiCorp.

Pacific Power provides electric service to more than 770,000 customers in Oregon, Washington and California. Pacific Power is part of PacifiCorp, which has 2 million customers in six western states, according to its website.

The Susan Creek Fire, Smith Springs Fire, and Archie Creek Fire all began on Sept. 8, 2020, in the Umpqua National Forest in Douglas County, east of Glide, along Highway 138. The three fires ultimately merged on Sept. 9. The Susan Creek Fire, Smith Springs Fire, and Archie Creek, became collectively known as the Archie Creek Fire.

It destroyed more than 130,000 acres, 154 primary residences, and damaged many other structures.

Pacific Power knew that its electrical system was “old and aging, unsafe, and/or vulnerable to weather and environmental conditions,” yet it failed to keep the lines clear of vegetation or take preventative measures in the face of known high-risk weather conditions, the complaints said.

Pacific Power also negligently and improperly re-energized its powerlines without ensuring they were clear of and/or had not come into contact with trees or other surrounding vegetation, according to the complaints.

“The fire was caused by negligent and improper maintenance, inspection, ownership, and operation of the powerlines and surrounding vegetation, owned, operated and maintained by Pacific Power,” the complaints said.

In the early morning hours of Sept. 8, Pacific Power’s powerlines failed, causing surrounding vegetation to ignite about 3 miles downriver from the community of Steamboat, the complaints allege.

“This ignition is the Archie Creek Fire origin,” according to the complaints. “The Archie Creek Fire ignited due to Pacific Power’s failure to properly identify and mitigate hazard trees and maintain vegetation near its transmission lines.”

A spokesperson for PacifiCorp said corporate policy is to not comment on ongoing litigation.

In the complaint filed by the 16 insurance companies, those companies also hired Craig S. Simon, a prominent attorney and managing partner with the Irvine, California law firm Berger Kahn, to represent them.

Simon was named California Attorney of the Year in 2021 by the Los Angeles Daily Journal, largely for his work as co-lead counsel for more than 100 insurance companies who had sued the Southern California Edison power company following a fire in November 2018.

The Woolsey Fire destroyed more than 150 square miles and 1,000 structures in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Southern California Edison eventually settled with the insurance companies for $2.2 billion.

Simon was also co-lead counsel in another fire involving Southern California Edison, in 2017. That blaze, known as the Thomas Fire, resulted in a $1.16 billion settlement.

Scott Carroll can be reached at scarroll@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4204. Or follow him on Twitter @scottcarroll15.

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(5) comments

melrosereader

The utilities like PPL are corporations whose functions are to provide a service and also to generate income (profit) for their investors.

The Oregon Public Utilities Commission, ONOH, mission is to ensure Oregon utility customers have access to safe, reliable, and high quality utility services at just and reasonable rates.

Seems to me both entities failed completely. But I blame the PUC more because its mission is solely to serve the public.

smedleyb

I say let the courts sort it out. Everything else is conjecture, unless it's what bball fan is mumbling about.

Roseburgonian

PP&L will likely just pass any expense off to the customers.

Huge bbfan

They are suing the wrong people 🙄.

smedleyb

Do you want to expound on who, if anybody, should they sue?

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