Oregon Jury Awards $85 Million to Wildfire Victims in Landmark Legal Battle Against Utility Giant

PORTLAND, Ore. – Nine victims of the devastating wildfires that swept through Oregon in 2020 have been awarded $85 million by an Oregon jury. This verdict is the latest in a series of legal proceedings that are expected to hold utility company PacifiCorp responsible for billions of dollars in damages caused by the fires.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys expressed their pride in their clients’ strength and resilience, along with gratitude for the jury holding PacifiCorp accountable. “We are so proud of the strength and resilience of our clients, and thankful to the jury for holding PacifiCorp accountable for what happened on Labor Day 2020 – something it will never do itself,” said Nick Rosinia, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

According to PacifiCorp, it expects the post-verdict rulings and insurance payments to amount to just under $80 million. The company acknowledges the tragic impact of the 2020 wildfires and states that it has settled, and will continue to settle, all reasonable claims for actual damages under Oregon law. However, it emphasizes that the growing threat of wildfires extends beyond any one company or industry.

The wildfires in 2020 were Oregon’s worst natural disasters, resulting in nine fatalities, the destruction of over 5,000 homes and structures, and scorching more than 1,875 square miles of land. In June of last year, a jury found PacifiCorp liable for damages due to negligence in failing to cut power to its customers despite warnings from fire officials. The power lines owned by PacifiCorp were determined to be responsible for multiple blazes. PacifiCorp has since appealed this decision.

Earlier damages of approximately $90 million were awarded by the jury to 17 homeowners in the initial lawsuit. Damages for a broader class, potentially including around 2,500 property owners, have yet to be determined. Tuesday’s ruling marked the first set of damages awarded to this broader class, with additional trials scheduled for February and April.

Furthermore, PacifiCorp recently settled another lawsuit brought by 463 plaintiffs affected by separate wildfires in southern Oregon in September 2020, agreeing to pay $299 million in damages. This ongoing series of legal proceedings highlights the significant financial consequences PacifiCorp faces as it grapples with the aftermath of the devastating wildfires.

The repercussions stemming from the 2020 wildfires serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need for preventive measures to mitigate the growing threat of wildfires to communities and businesses. As the legal battles continue, the focus on holding responsible parties accountable for their actions remains a priority.