On Tuesday, Southern California Edison announced that it would be paying a $2.2 billion settlement over claims from the 2018 Woolsey Fire within the next 90 days.
The Woolsey Fire burned nearly 100,000 acres of land in Los Angeles and Ventura counties in November 2018, destroying over 1,600 structures, causing the evacuation of 300,000 people, and killing 3.
In addition to previous settlements for the 2017 Thomas Fire, the 2017 Koenigstein Fire, the 2018 Montecito Mudslide, and a 2020 agreement with local agencies over wildfire harm, SCE has now paid out $4.6 billion in settlements in under a year. While the amount does not even come close to settlements fellow utility company PG&E has had to pay over wildfire losses, including a $13.5 billion payment to victims of the 2018 Camp Fire alone, the total amount paid by SCE now ranks amount the highest settlements given in Southern California wildfire history.
And while PG&E took the blame for several wildfires, including the Camp Fire, SCE did not claim any blame on Tuesday, simply referring it to wildfire-related litigation. This is despite reports last year that had found that faulty SCE equipment had been caused the fire.
“[The] settlement is another significant step toward resolving pending wildfire-related litigation,” noted SCE CEO Pedro Pizarro on Monday.
Many wildfire victims, while placated with the settlement, have expressed disdain toward the company for not accepting full responsibility over the fire.
“They are not being a responsible company if they don’t take responsibility for their actions,” said Antonio Diaz, whose daughter nearly lost her life in the Woolsey Fire, to the Globe. “They’re acting like those people who do a hit and run, then settle out of court so that their name doesn’t go in the paper. Only thing with Edison is that this is known, but they aren’t taking the stock or insurance hit by saying they were at fault.
“My daughter barely left her house in time a few years back and lost a lot of things, including a car. Others weren’t that lucky and people died. This sort of thing doesn’t exactly endear you to companies now, does it? A lot of victims feel this way. The money is expected, but an apology and responsibility is what a lot of us really want. Accountability.”
However, lawyers for the plaintiffs noted that the settlement would be given soon.
“I believe this subrogation settlement will lead to a global settlement protocol in Woolsey, between SCE and individuals,” explained plaintiff co-lead counsel Craig S. Simon of Berger Kahn.
Settlement payments are expected to be completed by late April of 2021.