Oregon Jury Awards $85 Million to Wildfire Victims, Holding PacifiCorp Accountable

PORTLAND, Ore. – A jury in Oregon has awarded a total of $85 million to nine victims of the devastating wildfires that swept through the state in 2020. This latest verdict is part of a series of legal actions that are likely to result in billions of dollars in liability for the utility company PacifiCorp. Nick Rosinia, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, expressed gratitude to the jury for holding PacifiCorp accountable for its actions.

According to PacifiCorp, the company expects the post-verdict rulings and insurance payments to bring their share of the verdict to just under $80 million. The company acknowledges the tragedy of the 2020 wildfires and states that it has settled and will continue to settle all reasonable claims for actual damages under Oregon law. They also emphasize that the threat of wildfires is a larger issue that extends beyond one company or industry.

The wildfires in 2020 were a major disaster for Oregon, resulting in the loss of nine lives, the destruction of over 1,875 square miles of land, and the devastating loss of more than 5,000 homes and structures. Last June, a jury found PacifiCorp liable for damages due to negligence in failing to cut power to its customers despite warnings from fire officials, attributing multiple blazes to the company’s power lines. PacifiCorp has appealed this decision.

The jury awarded approximately $90 million to 17 homeowners in a previous case, with damages yet to be determined for a larger class of plaintiffs that may include the owners of around 2,500 properties. Tuesday’s damages were the first awarded to this broader class, with additional trials scheduled for February and April.

Additionally, PacifiCorp recently agreed to pay $299 million to settle a separate lawsuit brought by 463 plaintiffs affected by wildfires in southern Oregon during Labor Day 2020.

The outcome of these legal proceedings against PacifiCorp will likely have significant financial implications for the company. The verdicts reflect growing concerns about holding utility companies accountable for their role in wildfire prevention and mitigation. As the threat of wildfires continues to loom, these cases highlight the urgency of addressing the risks posed by power lines and other factors that contribute to the outbreak and spread of such destructive fires.

The impact of these wildfires on the affected communities deserves attention and prompt action to prevent similar tragedies in the future.