Insurers Sue PG&E Over California Camp Fire Damages

Insurance companies are suing Pacific Gas & Electric Co. over damages caused by the deadly Camp Fire in California, according to a report from CBS Sacramento. The fire destroyed 14,000 homes and led to billions of dollars in insurance claims.

The lawsuits, which were filed by USAA, Allstate, State Farm and their subsidiaries, are in addition to the ones filed by individual fire victims.

State Farm has accused PG&E of “failing to keep the power lines, wires, and any and all associated equipment in a safe condition at all times to prevent fires.”

Allstate said in its lawsuit, “Plaintiffs have suffered damages caused by an act or omission of defendants.”

The Camp Fire devastated the towns of Magalia, Paradise and Concow.

Investigators have not determined the cause of the fire, but insurance companies claim in the lawsuit that flames sparked near the site of a transmission line. They also noted a second potential ignition site which also involved PG&E distribution lines.

If lawyers can prove that the cause of the fire was PG&E’s power lines and other utility equipment, the company could be held entirely liable under California law.

PG&E is facing several lawsuits and a number of regulatory and legal challenges, including potential criminal charges. According to the California attorney general, PG&E could face charges as serious as involuntary manslaughter or murder if the investigation determines that negligent maintenance or operation of power equipment caused the recent wildfires.

California’s wildfires over the last two years have put significant financial strain on property-casualty insurers. Merced Property & Casualty, a small insurer in San Joaquin Valley, was declared insolvent due to Camp Fire claims. Merced’s customers will be paid by an industry-funded guaranty association, but they can only pay up to $500,000 per claim by law.

The Camp Fire was the deadliest in California’s history, killing 86 people and destroying thousands of homes. The blaze decimated approximately 90% of the homes in Paradise and is expected to result in billions of dollars in damages.