PARAIDSE -- A huge announcement out of Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office saying Pacific Gas and Electric could, in theory, be charged with implied-malice, murder and involuntary manslaughter.
That’s if the company is found to have caused any deadly fires.
It is important to note the Attorney General’s office did not say it would charge the utility company with those crimes, only that the options are on the table.
The announcement came in a brief a federal judge asked the Attorney General for while overseeing PG&E’s probation case regarding the 2010 San Bruno gas line explosion.
Though this is news to some survivors of the Camp Fire, others who already have lawsuits against the utility company hope the probation case will help their lawsuits.
“My friends are safe; my family is safe. Our house burnt down,” Jamie Ramey stated.
Ramey and her two daughters are still counting their blessings they escaped the Camp Fire with their lives.
“The morning of the fire, we were concerned but we’ve seen fire in that area all the time. Nothing really triggered me to panic. My dad basically saved our lives,” she said.
For the 86 other people who were not so lucky, California’s top prosecutor says PG&E could be charged with their deaths.
“The district attorney or the attorney general, generally does not charge a company. The reason is because you can’t put the company in jail,” said attorney Mike Danko.
Danko’s firm represents around 900 clients who lost their homes to the Camp Fire in and around Paradise.
He explains Bacerra’s announcement came from a recently submitted brief which details multiple possible consequences PG&E could face under state law.
“The judge asked the attorney general to explain to the court what the law is as far as criminal liability,” Danko said.
As part of this probation hearing, PG&E must also submit what role it played, if any, in starting the Camp Fire. A request the judge has given the company to do by New Year’s Eve.
“They really have to own up to them or else it’s going to be big trouble for PG&E,” Danko said.
That document is one Danko says could expedite his lawsuits.
“If we asked, PG&E tell us what your role was,” he said. “It would take months and months to get to the bottom of it.”
Meanwhile, Ramey tells us she’s unsure if PG&E should be charged with anything.
“Honestly I hadn’t heard anything about that until right now. I’m kind of still processing that; I don’t know. There were a lot of lives lost,” she said.
PG&E did release a statement regarding its probation, which reads in part:
“PG&E’s most important responsibility is public and workforce safety. Our focus continues to be on assessing our infrastructure to further enhance safety and helping our customers continue to recover and rebuild.”
That rebuilding continues to happen in Paradise as there are still many PG&E crews working to restore infrastructure.