Personal injury lawsuits from pipeline explosion filed

October 19, 2010 6:11:52 PM PDT
The first personal injury lawsuits from the San Bruno explosion were filed on Tuesday. One lawyer filed five lawsuits against PG&E on behalf of homeowners. At the same time, the utility company is offering homeowners buyout offers, with a $50,000 bonus if they act quickly.

None of the families that filed a lawsuit are pursuing the buyout offers. The lawsuit accuses PG&E of negligence, called the pipe a ticking time bomb and the explosion preventable.

The five lawsuits also aim to hold PG&E responsible for everything from the death of family members to emotional distress.

"The bottom line here is that there was a pattern of what we believe was a disregard for safety. This disregard has a pattern that goes for two decades or more," attorney Frank Pitre said.

Pitre is handling all five cases, which include the Bullis family. Susan Bullis lost her 17-year-old son William, her husband Gregory and mother-in-law Lavonne.

Pitre says the suits are about transparency and safety, saying PG&E did not act on safety recommendations made years ago.

"PG&E supplies the natural gas. PG&E is responsible and they shouldn't have to wait for someone to tell them what to do," he said.

Bill Magoolaghan is one of the five who filed suit on Tuesday. His house is uninhabitable.

"I think that a big issue for us is the transparency to make sure this is going to be out in public, rather than being decided in someone's living room with a $50,000 payoff to make people go away," he said.

PG&E has made various financial offers to San Bruno victims. The latest is an incentive program to rebuild or sell -- $50,000 for rebuilding within 16 months and that amount drops to $12,500 for rebuilding within 24 months. Another offer is $50,000 for selling to PG&E within six months and it would go down to a $12,500 bonus for selling within a year.

The price would be either the pre-explosion value or the mortgage, whichever is greater.

"Some of the details are still to be worked out, but we are working with real estate agents and appraisers to basically before September 8," PG&E spokesman Matt Nauman said.

Tuesday's lawsuits are the first five of 30 and one law firm expects more suits over the next two weeks or so.

On Tuesday afternoon, PG&E issued a response to the filing and it said, "PG&E remains committed to customers in San Bruno and we will continue to be there to rebuild the city. We will carefully review the lawsuits once we receive them."


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