From San Diego Superior Court Reporter’s Transcript of [SDG&E] Proceedings, August 16, 2011
Many of you have settled your SDG&E litigation claims. Unfortunately, many of you have not. CARe believes that by taking reasonable steps, all fire victims could have their fire claims resolved soon. Like CARe’s previous litigation updates, this update is provided to encourage fire victims to successfully complete their fire disaster recovery by understanding what is happening currently with the litigation stalemate. Feel free to share this information particularly if you think it might help your neighbor or friend settle their SDG&E claim.
The San Diego Superior Court SDG&E litigation hearing transcript provides answers to some of the questions CARe is receiving regarding the litigation such as:
Why are many cases not settled?
Do attorneys have sufficient resources to go against SDG&E?
Are attorneys getting emotional distress and punitive damages in mediation?
Are mediators undervaluing claims?
San Diego Superior Court proceedings show that nearly four years after the 2007 San Diego wildfires, many attorneys have not yet submitted 463 plaintiffs’ loss assessment packages to SDG&E.The Court indicates cases cannot be resolved until loss assessment packages are delivered to SDG&E.(See excerpts below.)
QUESTION:Are SDG&E cases not settling because the mediators are unreasonable? ANSWER:No, cases are not settling because the PCG-1 consortium of attorneys [See Note below] and other attorneys have not provided loss assessment documentation for 463 cases.
COURT: “Have you submitted all of your [loss assessment] packages to SDG&E? TOSDAL: “Not all. COURT: “Why not? TOSDAL:“Well, we [Tosdal, Singleton, Wagner] have a back load—backlog of 250 [of the 463] cases that are just sitting there.” Transcript of Proceedings, August 16, 2011, Page 8, Lines 14-21
COURT: “… liability hasn’t been an issue in 757 [of the settled cases].” Transcript of Proceedings, August 16, 2011, Page 9, Lines 19-20
SDG&E:“There’s 463 [including Tosdal’s, Singleton’s, Wagner’s 250] cases … that have not yet submitted a demand.” Transcript of Proceedings, August 16, 2011, Page 21, Lines 2-4
HURST:“But if there is never a consequence [i.e., a trial], Judge, we are not going to settle the cases. COURT:“Well, half of them have settled. I don’t know why you keep saying that. HURST:“Half, your Honor, have not. COURT:“Because they are not ready. McGUIRE:“Yes.” Transcript of Proceedings, August 16, 2011, Page 47, Lines 3-10
QUESTION: Do the attorneys have the resources to go against a big company like SDG&E? ANSWER: PCG-1 attorney states they are dwarfed by the resources and personnel of SDG&E.
HURST:“We are far, far smaller.I mean. Collectively, your honor, the [PCG-1] plaintiffs’ group is dwarfed by the resources and personnel that SDG&E has.” Transcript of Proceedings, August 16, 2011, Page 54, Lines 15-18
QUESTION: Is SDG&E paying emotional distress damages? ANSWER: The PCG-1 attorneys state that they are NOT recovering punitive and emotional distress damages from SDG&E.
SINGLETON: “We [PCG-1 attorneys] don’t get punitives [damages]. We don’t get emotional distress [damages].” Transcript of Proceedings, August 16, 2011, Page 57, Lines 15-17 SDG&E: “They [PCG-1 attorneys] call it annoyance, inconvenience.Originally it was called emotional distress.” Transcript of Proceedings, August 16, 2011, Page 38, Lines 20-21
QUESTION: Are SDG&E cases unsuccessful in mediation because mediators undervalue claims? ANSWER:Cases are not settling in mediation because plaintiffs’ are not providing sufficient documentation to support their claims or are making unreasonable demands.
SDG&E: “If the [attorneys] are not doing their job to give us the information we need to mediate … .… [they have] to give us the information so we can justify what we are paying. In the event we get audited, we need to show to everybody, to the public, why we are paying as much as we are paying. We need to show that. We need to have the information. If they are not giving us the information, we can’t settle it.” Transcript of Proceedings, August 16, 2011, Page 24, Lines 10-19 SDG&E: “We are not settling because … [plaintiffs] want too much or they can’t prove their case. If they can prove it, we will pay it.” Transcript of Proceedings, August 16, 2011, Page 26, Lines 10-12 SDG&E: “We can use more mediators if the plaintiffs will submit more demands [loss amount with documentation] and if the plaintiffs provide the information that’s necessary for the mediations to be successful.” Transcript of Proceedings, August 16, 2011, Page 32, Lines 2-5
CARe recommends that fire victims who have not yet settled their claims against SDG&E, Cox and other defendants in the 2007 wildfire litigation do the following:
Complete all discovery and interrogatories submitted by SDG&E per your attorneys’ instruction.
Complete all tangible property evaluations to determine your actual real fire related damages.
Negotiate the reasonable value of your tangible property damages with SDG&E per your attorney.
Do it NOW so that you can avoid being a part of the numerous unresolved cases.
Understand the differences between the misinformation and reality of the SDG&E litigation through the excerpts of the court transcript that help clarify fact from fiction.
Note:The San Diego Superior Court Department 75 is presided by the Honorable Richard Strauss, Judge.
Note:SDG&E is represented by Attorney Kenneth Chiate, Quinn Emanuel, Los Angeles.
Note:PCG-1 attorneys are a consortium of 31 attorneys and include the SDFVL attorneys Tom Tosdal, Mitch Wagner, Robert Jackson, Debra Hurst, Terry Singleton, Gerald Singleton and Michael Feinberg, among others.
CARe, a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation, provides free disaster recovery informational services to victims of disasters. CARe is available at 888-216-8264 or firstname.lastname@example.org to answer questions regarding the SDG&E wildfire litigation or disaster recovery.
Community Assisting Recovery, Inc. 79181 El Cajon Blvd, Ste N346, La Mesa CA 91941 www.carehelp.org 888-216-8264
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The resources you provided, and the general meetings for fire survivors that CARe sponsored in our area offered incredible amounts of information. The meetings also gave an opportunity to confer and commiserate with other fire victims and to observe how much your services aided them as well. The open forums gave all victims the opportunity to share experiences so that we could measure our own reality based, progress. The one on one personal consultations with you enabled me to address concerns that were specific to our particular circumstances and added a measure of comfort to the overall, very stressful process.
Most importantly, is that the great faith my husband and I had in our insurance company proved to be well founded. Your analytical assessment, based on researched knowledge, was a solid ratification of what the company did for us. We had no doubts about the settlement offer and signed it without hesitation and absolutely no looking back. Thank you again.