Baron & Budd’s shareholder John Fiske received a Presidential Award of Merit from the Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC) for his legislative advocacy protecting public entities’ constitutional property rights in the aftermath of California’s 2017 wildfires. Fiske was recognized by CAOC at its annual convention on November 15, 2018, at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.
Following the historic 2017 wildfires that swept across Northern and Southern California, private utility defendants including PG&E and Southern California Edison spent millions of dollars lobbying California’s legislature to limit fire victims’ ability to receive compensation for damages caused by the 2017 fires. This lobbying led the California Legislature to examine the issue through a special legislative committee. The committee called on Fiske as the only attorney to provide testimony on behalf of thousands of property owners, businesses, and public entities.
On August 10, 2018, Fiske delivered a blistering counter-testimony to the private utilities, noting that any proposed changes to inverse condemnation would have a direct impact on thousands of wildfire survivors, including hundreds of business owners, ranchers, farmers, and the 7,000 families who lost their homes because it would deny these victims of their constitutional rights to just compensation as well as a jury trial against the power companies who are allegedly responsible for causing the 2017 fires throughout the state.
After hearing testimony on the issue for nearly five months, the legislature moved to protect public entities’ constitutional property rights against the private utilities, delivering a legislative victory to public entities throughout the state.
“It was truly an honor to be selected to give a voice to the thousands of consumers who would have lost their constitutional rights provided through inverse condemnation, had public utility sponsored legislation passed the California Senate,” said Fiske. “Particularly in light of the historic fires that continue to blaze throughout the state, this legislative victory is deeply important and will help to ensure that those harmed by the negligence of private utilities will get their day in court.”
CAOC is a professional organization of plaintiffs’ attorneys who represent consumers seeking accountability against wrongdoers in cases involving personal injury, product liability, environmental degradation and other causes. The organization works closely with legislative advocates to ensure that California courts remain accessible to all and to level the playing field for underdog consumers facing wealthy and powerful foes.
Baron & Budd represents thousands of fire victims including hundreds of business owners, ranchers, farmers and approximately 25 public entities. Currently, the firm is actively investigating the Camp Fire in Northern California, as well as the Woolsey Fire in Southern California, both of which began on November 8, 2018. On November 14, 2018, the firm filed its first case on behalf of a Paradise, Calif., property owner whose home was destroyed by Camp Fire.
Earlier this year, the firm successfully petitioned the Judicial Council of California for a Judicial Council Coordinated Proceeding (“JCCP”) to coordinate all cases against Southern California Edison arising from the 2017 Thomas and Rye Fires and to separately coordinate all cases against PG&E arising from the 2017 North Bay Fires.