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Residents Allowed to Seek Punitive Damages Against PG&E

The tentative ruling by the judge overseeing the the PG&E trial proceedings stemming from the 2010 San Bruno fire was announced Monday. A final decision is expected Tuesday.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the judge overseeing the PG&E trial proceedings has tentatively ruled that survivors of the San Bruno fire will be able to seek punitive damages against the utility.

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Steven Dylina announced the tentative ruling on Monday, according to attorneys involved in the trial, the Chronicle reported.

The Chronicle further explained what allowing punitive damages means for the trial, which now involves more than 350 lawsuits filed by residents who were affected by the 2010 pipeline explosion in the Crestmoor neighborhood:

To ask for punitive damages, the explosion victims must show that PG&E was malicious—that the utility intentionally injured them by carrying out "despicable conduct" with a willful or conscious disregard for their safety.

On Monday, in an argument that offered a preview of the potential trial ahead, PG&E attorney John Lyons said the evidence instead pointed to a tragic "mix-up." He said the 30-inch transmission pipe that ruptured was installed in the mid-1950s with a defective weld, but said there's no evidence anyone at the company—which did not manufacture the pipe—had known of the problem.

According to media reports, Dylina is expected to make a final decision today after hearing arguments from attorneys on both sides.

John Hanson October 31, 2012 at 03:25 AM
It's P.G.E. job to inspect the pipe before installing it. Can not be trusted.
Martin Ricard October 31, 2012 at 05:16 AM
An attorney involved in today's hearing said that Judge Dylina stuck with his ruling, which means punitive damages will be considered during the trial.
Martin Ricard October 31, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Great line from the San Mateo County Times story about yesterday's hearing, describing one of the lead plaintiffs' attorney's reaction to PG&E's defense that it didn't know the pipeline had a defective weld: Lawyer Frank Pitre, who represents dozens of fire survivors, argued it was that ignorance and an effort to use loopholes in federal pipe safety laws that show the utility chose executive bonuses over costly safety work. State law says a jury can award punitive damages only if PG&E showed "a conscious disregard for human safety." Pitre said the utility has crossed that threshold. http://bit.ly/SuhAtt

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