PG&E Corporation and Pacific Gas and Electric Company filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 on January 29, 2019, in the Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California. The bankruptcy filing did not take many by surprise as the corporation had stated it was facing millions of dollars in damages because of the California wildfires. However, the bankruptcy filing was not welcome news for the victims of the Northern California Wildfires and the Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire who have sustained damages because of the utility’s negligence. What would become of the lawsuits and claims for damages by wildfire victims now that the utility company was protected in bankruptcy court?
The Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing Does Not Absolve PG&E’s Liability
While the bankruptcy filing will change the method used by wildfire victims in California to recover compensation for damages, it does not automatically bar victims from seeking compensation. It does change how victims can seek compensation. Chapter 11 is a reorganization bankruptcy. PG&E is not shutting down operations. It merely seeks to reorganize its debts through a bankruptcy plan so that it can continue to operate.
However, Chapter 11 does allow a company to reduce and eliminate some of its legal debts during the reorganization. It is that ability that has many individuals concerned that wildfire victims will not receive the compensation they deserve for their damages and losses.
In a letter to the office of the United States Trustee, Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration requested protection for wildfire survivors. It requested that the group has adequate representation in the bankruptcy proceeding because of their claims for personal injury and wrongful death. The letter emphasizes the fact that wildfire victims are vulnerable in the Chapter 11 process and deserve to have a voice in how the bankruptcy reorganization impacts their claims against the company.
The bankruptcy judge formed a Tort Claimants Committee (TCC) within the Chapter 11 case. The 11-person committee has the task of looking out for the interests of wildfire victims and wildfire survivors during the bankruptcy process. The TCC is the voice for victims who sustained personal injury or loss because of PG&E’s negligence and carelessness. It ensures that the victims are not forgotten during the bankruptcy process.
However, the TCC is limited in what it can accomplish by bankruptcy laws. Although the TCC can request certain protections and actions, bankruptcy laws are designed to protect the debtor-in-possession (PG&E) while it reorganizes its debts through Chapter 11. Therefore, it is important for wildfire victims to continue to seek legal counsel from an experienced California wildfire attorney who understands the bankruptcy process. Attorney Thompson represents one of the 11 members of the TCC and therefore has an opportunity to participate in the TCC meetings.
Filing Claims in the PG&E Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Case
Instead of pursuing personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death laws, Camp Fire victims and other wildfire survivors must now file claims within the Chapter 11 bankruptcy case to recover compensation for their losses. The bankruptcy process can be complicated and difficult to understand.
Some of the important things that wildfire survivors must know about filing claims in the PG&E bankruptcy case include:
- You have a firm deadline for filing your claim.
The bankruptcy judge set a firm deadline for all victims of California wildfires to file claims against PG&E for damages. The deadline for filing a Proof of Claim in the Chapter 11 case is October 21, 2019. After October 21, 2019, no future claims may be filed against the utility company by wildfire victims or their families.
- If you have an attorney, contact your attorney immediately.
PG&E is likely to begin a large advertising campaign to encourage wildfire victims to file their Proof of Claims with the utility company. Victims should contact their attorneys instead of dealing directly with the company. If victims do not have an attorney, they may want to consider contacting our office to discuss how we can help them file a Proof of Claim. Our office will handle filing bankruptcy claims for all our clients, including filing the initial claim by the deadline and filing a detailed accounting of losses to ensure all damages are accounted for in the bankruptcy claim.
- The Camp Fire Relief Fund is Separate from the Proof of Claim
There has been a discussion about a potential relief fund of $100 million to help Camp Fire victims and other wildfire victims. The fund would provide temporary living assistance to the survivors of the wildfires. However, this is a PR campaign by PG&E designed to improve the public’s perception of the utility company.
In reality, the utility company pushed for a shorter Proof of Claim deadline in the bankruptcy case in an attempt to limit its liability for the wildfires. With a shorter deadline, some wildfire victims may not file claims, thereby decreasing the amount of money the utility will owe for damages related to the Camp Fire and other California wildfires which it is blamed for starting.
- The $1 Billion Settlement Announced by PG&E is Not Related to Individual Claims
PG&E reached a $1 billion settlement, subject to Bankruptcy Court approval, applies to public and government entities only. This settlement does not apply to individual claims from victims and survivors of the California wildfires. You must file your Proof of Claim by October 21, 2019, or your claim for wildfire damages is barred.
Why Do I Need a California Wildfire Attorney to Help Me File a Bankruptcy Claim?
The bankruptcy process is complicated. You need to ensure that your claim is filed before the deadline and your claim is in the correct format for filing. You also need to ensure that you provide the correct documentation for your claim. Even if you file a claim, your claim could be denied if you fail to provide the required documentation with your Proof of Claim.
Wildfire victims have experienced great losses and damages because of PG&E’s negligence and recklessness. Now, victims are further subjected to stress, frustration, and unnecessary burdens because the utility company has filed for Chapter 11 relief. The bankruptcy case has complicated matters for many wildfire survivors who need compensation for damages to recover from the devastation caused by the wildfires.
If you have not retained a Camp Fire attorney to help you with your claim, we encourage you to consult a California wildfire attorney immediately. Time is short to file a claim in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy case. Failing to act now could result in your claim being denied. If so, you will never receive the compensation you deserve from PG&E for the damages caused by the Camp Fire and other California wildfires.
The Lawyers of The Thompson Law Office Are Standing Up for the Rights of Wildfire Victims in California
Attorney Thompson has extensive experience handling wildfire claims. Our skilled team is working within the bankruptcy system to protect the rights of wildfire survivors. Committed to seeking justice for individuals, families, and businesses who have suffered losses because of the negligence and wrongdoing of large utility companies. Attorney Bobby Thompson can help you file your claim to protect your right to compensation for wildfire damages and losses.
We encourage you to contact our office to speak with an experienced California wildfire attorney. Call 1-650-513-6111 for a free consultation to discuss your claim.