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Lauren Coughlin, Editor
6:47 am PST December 5, 2018

Lawsuits are starting to pile up against Southern California Edison, which some blame for starting the Woolsey Fire.

Alexander Robertson, IV, of Robertson & Associates, said his firm currently represents nearly 50 clients, roughly a dozen of whom are from Malibu, who have sued SCE for its alleged role in the massive wildfire that began Nov. 8. 

“I currently represent over 450 plaintiffs in the Thomas Fire cases and believe that the Woolsey Fire case will follow the same pattern with thousands of homeowners filing suit against Southern California Edison Company,” Robertson wrote in an email to the Surfside News.

One such lawsuit was filed Nov. 15 by Malibu resident Michael Henthorn, alleging that SCE demonstrated negligence, inverse condemnation, public and private nuisance, premises liability, trespass, violations of public utilities code, and violation of health and safety code. 

SCE reported a Nov. 8 electric safety incident to the California Public Utilities Commission concerning its Big Rock 16 kV circuit out of Chatsworth Substation in Ventura County. The incident reportedly occurred just two minutes before the Woolsey Fire was first reported in the area.

“SCE had a duty to properly construct, maintain and operate its electrical infrastructure,” the lawsuit states. “SCE violated these duties by knowingly operating aging and improperly maintained infrastructure. In fact, SCE’s violations had caused wildfires before, and SCE was fined by the California Public Utilities Commission numerous times before the Woolsey Fire began.”

Past incidents highlighted in the lawsuit include the Malibu Canyon Fire of 2007, after which SCE agreed to a settlement with the PUC and paid a $37 million fine.

The lawsuit further states that, in extreme fire areas, SCE is responsible for maintaining vegetation near its equipment and for ensuring that its power lines and utility poles can withstand winds of up to 92 miles per hour.

Henthorn’s home of 30 years, located on Mitolomol Street, was one of 1,643 structures destroyed by the Woolsey Fire. 

The lawsuit seeks the reimbursement of lawsuit fees as well as costs for repair and/or replacement of the plaintiff’s destroyed, damaged and lost personal property.

As of press time, Southern California Edison did not respond to the Surfside’s request for comment.