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.

Six devastating wildfires raged in Southern California, forcing hundreds of thousands of people from their neighborhoods to avoid the flames and prompting state and federal officials to declare a state of emergency for the region.

Southern California Wildfires – December 2017

  • Thomas Fire (Ventura & Santa Barbara Counties)
  • Creek Fire (Sylmar/Los Angeles)
  • Rye Fire (Santa Clarita)

The Thomas Fire, the largest of the six blazes, straddled Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. According to NPR, the fire has burned for more than a week and is considered the largest and most destructive fire in California history. As of Dec. 13, the fire had burned more than 236,000 acres and was reported as only 25% contained.

Other ongoing fires include the Creek Fire in the Sylmar/Kagel Canyon area of Los Angeles and the Rye Fire in Santa Clarita. More than 150,000 people have faced mandatory evacuation orders as a result of these fires.

Fire officials are investigating the cause of these fires. A recent press release from Southern California Edison revealed that some of the electric utility company’s facilities are the subject of the investigation, which could point to a possible cause.

The California Fire Lawyers is an accomplished legal team consisting of top environmental attorneys with experience taking on the negligent utility companies who cause these devastating blazes. We have successfully recovered more than $650,000,000 for more than 4,000 victims of previous fires. We are also currently representing more than 350 victims of October’s deadly Northern California wildfires.

If you or a loved one were affected by the Southern California wildfires, an experienced wildfire attorney may be able to help you recover your losses. Please call the California Fire Lawyers at 805-491-9947 or contact us online to discuss your legal options.

Thomas Mudslides

Attorneys with California Fire Lawyers say deadly situation linked to SoCal Edison

MONTECITO, Calif., January 17, 2018 – Today, the California Fire Lawyers, a legal group representing victims of wildfires, expressed their condolences and support for Southern California communities impacted by devastating mudslides. The mudslides have been linked to the recent fires believed to be caused by Southern California Edison.

According to NPR, at least 20 people have died and four people remain missing because of the “Thomas Flood” mudslides in Santa Barbara County. Residents have been told to evacuate as emergency crews work to clear the area of mud and debris.

“The mudslide washed my car away and the destroyed remains of it were found on the beach in Montecito,” said Alicia Journey, a local attorney with the California Fire Lawyers. “As terrifying as that was, I am so thankful that my family was otherwise unharmed. My heart breaks for the families who are grieving the loss of loved ones after this terrible ordeal.”

“The horrific mudslides in Montecito and other parts of Santa Barbara County are hitting this community hard, right on the heels of the worst fire season in California history,” said John Fiske, an environmental attorney and shareholder with Baron & Budd. “These post-fire debris flows happen when water rushes down the hillside, picking up mud, burnt trees, and other debris along the way. This situation is linked to the Thomas Fire, and SoCal Edison should be held accountable for every bit of the devastation that they have caused.”

“Even during this truly awful time, it’s important for impacted residents to remember that these tragedies were caused by SoCal Edison’s wrongdoing,” said John F. “Mickey” McGuire, an experienced landslide litigator and senior partner with Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire.

McGuire has nearly 40 years of experience in handling landslide and soil movement claims. In the 1970s, in one of the first cases of its kind, McGuire successfully litigated on behalf of nearly 100 Oak Hills residents after a developer knowingly disturbed an ancient landslide which destroyed their homes. In 1995, he represented about 75 landslide victims in La Conchita, who each received up to three times their home’s worth in compensation. In 2003, McGuire represented the La Jolla Alta Master Council in a lawsuit that ultimately resulted in more than $9.5 million in settlements to repair storm drain systems and prevent a landslide.

“Throughout my career, I have represented hundreds of families whose homes were damaged or destroyed by landslides and similar disasters and achieved tremendous results on their behalf,” McGuire said. “It is imperative that all those affected by these mudslides seek out their legal options as soon as possible so that they can recover full and fair compensation for their losses.”

California Fire Lawyers, a group of experienced wildfire attorneys from Baron & Budd, Singleton Law Firm, Dixon Diab & Chambers LLP, Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire, and Terry Singleton, Esq., is working to bring justice for victims of this tragedy. For more information about taking legal action against SoCal Edison for wildfire and/or mudslide damages, call 805-491-9947 or visit our website at www.CaliforniaFireLawyers.com.

Wildfires blazed across Northern California in 2017, forcing tens of thousands of residents to evacuate their homes and their communities. Baron & Budd is investigating multiple fires, including the Atlas fire in Napa and Solano Counties, the Tubbs fire in Napa and Sonoma Counties, the Redwood Valley and Potter fires in Mendocino County, the Cascade fire in Yuba County, and the Thomas fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

More than 281,893 acres burned, leaving more than 10,000 homes, businesses, and other structures destroyed in its wake. That’s more property destroyed than the last nine years of wildfires combined.

Sadly, these fires have claimed the lives of at least 43 individuals, more than lost their lives in all wildfires over the past decade. Countless wildlife have also perished.

According to The Mercury News, San Francisco-based utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) may be linked to the cause of the Tubbs fire. As the first reports of the fires emerged, Sonoma County emergency dispatchers “received multiple calls of power lines falling down and electrical transformers exploding.” These power equipment failures raise questions about PG&E’s maintenance of the equipment in the area and potentially their failure to remove trees from power lines.

Ecolawyers at Baron & Budd’s Environmental Litigation Group are dedicated to protecting the rights of individuals who have lost their property in wildfires caused by corporate negligence. Baron & Budd is representing numerous California families in litigation resulting from these fires and previous ones, including the Chariot Wildfire and the Butte Wildfire. We stand ready to meet with families affected by the most recent California wildfires to discuss your potential legal options. For more information, call (707) 533-8128 now.


Frequent Asked Questions

What are my fire damages?

When someone is affected by a fire, there are many types of losses, including:

Property Damage

  • Homes and other structures
  • Personal property/contents of the home
  • Trees and landscaping
  • Erosion damage

Evacuation and Alternative Living Expenses

  • Hotel/food/gas during evacuation
  • Rent and additional costs for temporary living

Lost Income

  • Personal income (including loss of sick and vacation days)
  • Business income

Emotional Damages

  • Fear for safety of yourself and others
  • Mental anguish, inconvenience, disturbance, and annoyance

I have insurance: do I need a lawyer?

Insurance does not cover all losses for three main reasons:

  • Most people are underinsured.
  • Property items are depreciated by the insurance company so that the payout won’t replace the lost items.
  • Many categories of damages are outside the purview of insurance coverage completely (like emotional damages, erosion, or lost income) or mostly (like landscaping and trees).

We have successfully fought to recover money for insured homeowners to compensate them for uninsured losses, including damages related to the stress and inconvenience caused by the fire and being displaced.

I don ‘t like the idea of lawsuits/I’m not a litigious person. Why do I need an attorney?

Right now, and for the next few months, you will be dealing with all kinds of issues that are not directly related to a lawsuit. For example, handling your insurance coverage, registering with government entities, and dealing with the County for cleanup and permitting. Our group of experienced fire attorneys and staff will help you navigate these issues. You will always have access to someone who can answer your questions and offer assistance.

We DO NOT take a percentage of your recovery from insurance. We will help you with your insurance claims without taking any portion of your insurance recovery.

To receive compensation for your losses you will need an attorney to help navigate the litigation process. Unfortunately, corporations have nearly unlimited resources and fight hard to minimize payouts to anyone who suffers fire losses. We hire experts in electrical engineering, metallurgy, fire investigation, tree valuation, erosion, home building, and other areas to establish liability and prove your damages.

What if I don ‘t have insurance?

We have helped many home-owners and renters who did not have insurance at the time of the fire. If the fire was caused by someone ‘s negligent, careless, or deliberate behavior, then you are entitled to compensation whether or not you had insurance.

What if I rented my house?

Renters who lose all of their possessions in a fire typically have significant personal property losses. It is costly to replace furniture, cookware, clothing, and other items that we tend to collect over a lifetime. Renters also have intangible damages related to the stress and anguish caused by the fire and its aftermath.

What happens if my business interruption limits are reached?

Most commercial insurance policies covering business will have a component of insurance called Business Interruption Insurance or Coverage. The purpose of this type of coverage is to supplement or replace your business’ income during any downtime. Depending on your policy limits and the extent of damage to your business, these limits may be exhausted before your business may be able to get back up and running. With the help of our experts, we can assist you in ascertaining and maximizing any business interruption claims. Any losses above and beyond your coverage are those that we would try and recover from a responsible party. As with the homeowners ‘ claims, we DO NOT take a percentage of recovery of your insurance proceeds. That recovery is yours, and yours alone.

How are the attorneys paid/what is your retainer?

There is no financial obligation or risk to hiring us. We work on contingency, meaning you don ‘t pay anything unless we recover money for you. Further, we advance all costs ourselves. We will never ask you to pay money out-of-pocket to us.

Will PG&E increase rates to pay for the lawsuit?

Any rate increases must be approved by the Public Utilities Commission. We have helped defeat power company efforts to raise rates.

Erskine Fire

At about 4:00 pm on June 23, 2016, an aggressive fire exploded near Lake Isabella in Kern County.  Dubbed the Erskine Fire, up to 80 homes were destroyed within the first 4 hours of it burning with 2,500 acres being consumed.

With unseasonably hot and dry conditions, firefighters are certain to be working tirelessly through the weekend to begin to try and contain this fire.  As of 9:00 pm on the 23rd, the fire is 0% contained and firefighters, unfortunately, cannot access many of the areas where homes are threatened.  At present, the fire has no known cause.

Erskine-Fire-LocationEvacuation orders are in place for South Lake, Lakeland Estates, Mountain Mesa, Squirrel Valley and Yankee Canyon.  The CHP has also shut down Highway 178 in both directions at Highway 155 and Sierra Way.  Evacuation centers have been set up at Kernville Elementary School located at 3340 Erskine Creek Rd. and the Lake Isabella Senior Center located at 6405 Lake Isabella Blvd.

The Erskine Fire Lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys are experienced in wildfire litigation and represent people that have lost their homes, personal property or sustained injuries as a result of a wildfire.  If you or someone you know has been affected by the Erskine Fire in Kern County, contact attorney John Fiske at 619.237.3490 to discuss your potential case.

IF YOU HAVE AN ENQUIRY ABOUT THE ERSKINE FIRE, PLEASE FILL OUT THIS FORM AS COMPLETELY AS POSSIBLE, AND WE WILL GET BACK TO YOU IMMEDIATELY

 

On Friday, May 29, 2015, Gomez Trial Attorneys and Baron & Budd filed a class action lawsuit against Ametek, Inc. for contaminating the groundwater beneath Magnolia Elementary School in the Cajon Valley School District. On Monday, June 1, the Cajon Valley School Board voted unanimously to close Magnolia Elementary for the 2015-2016 school year to pursue monitoring and remediation efforts. The lawsuit alleges that underground chlorinated solvent waste has caused vapor intrusion into the classrooms of Magnolia Elementary. The class includes Magnolia students and teachers exposed to the chlorinated solvent vapor intrusion.

They dumped up to 7,000 gallons of chlorinated solvent waste into the ground a month

Between at least 1963 and 1985, Ametek and its predecessor dumped up to 7,000 gallons, per month, of chlorinated solvent waste into a hole in the ground, causing the largest TCE plume in the state of California. The chlorinated solvents include TCE, PCE, DCE, TCA, and Dioxane. Vinyl chloride has also been detected in the classroom air. Vinyl chloride is a highly toxic breakdown product of chemicals such as TCE and PCE. The plumes extends westward 1.3 miles out to Gillespie Field, San Diego’s east county airport.

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If you or someone you know attended or worked at Magnolia Elementary, or lives or works near the area, please contact John Fiske at 619-237-3490 or [email protected].

LATEST NEWS

East County School to Reopen Despite Concerns of Toxins

 

John Gomez and John Fiske represent cities in suits against Monsanto, which created, manufactured, distributed, and sold a dangerous chemical known as Polychlorinated Biphenyls or PCBs.

PCBs were banned by Congress in 1979, but their widespread application prior to their ban caused global contamination. PCBs are toxic, carcinogenic chemicals once used in industrial and commercial applications such as paint, caulk, coolants, lubricants, transformers, capacitors, and other applications. Over time, PCB chemicals have escaped their intended applications and invaded the Earth’s ecosystem.

Cancer-causing PCBs were widely used in building materials for decades. Whether anyone bothers to look for them at your kids’ school, and what happens next, is mainly an accident of geography.

Now, cities and taxpayers are left to clean up PCBs from public waterways and systems, even though Monsanto had knowledge that PCBs could become a global contaminant, threatening wildlife, marine animals, and human health, but produced it anyway.

Concerned about Monsanto PCB contamination? If you have any questions about Gomez Trial Attorneys’ PCB litigation, please contact John Fiske at 619-237-3490.

Read Article – PCB’s in Schools

Read Article – San Diego’s New Lawsuit Shows Just How Hard It Is To Hold Polluters Accountable

Read Article – San Jose Sues Monsanto, Pfizer Over PCBs

On July 8, 2013, the Chariot wildfire raged through the Al Bahr Shrine Camp destroying 150 structures, devastating the Al Bahr Campground, infrastructure, and community. The fire originated from the desert floor near Butterfield Ranch and blazed through a chimney canyon before reaching the Al Bahr Campground, located in Mount Laguna in the Cleveland National Forrest. The Al Bahr camp is steeped in decades of tradition, community, and lasting memories passed through several generations of Shriners.

Among the structures burned was the Shrine Lodge, an 87-year-old meeting place where generations of Shriners met, held ceremonies, and practiced common values of caring for children and members of their community.

Gomez Trial Attorneys filed suit against the U.S. Government and Chrysler on behalf of Al Bahr Shriners, and over 110 cabin owners, to recover monetary damages.

If you or someone you know lost property in a wildfire, you can contact John Fiske at Gomez Trial Attorneys for a free evaluation of your potential case. Gomez Trial Attorneys is dedicated to protecting the rights of individuals who have lost property or the ability to use and enjoy their property.

You can call us directly at 619-237-3490 or fill out the form below to start the process toward recovery.

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