Lawsuit alleges SoCal Edison 'created perfect storm' that led to Laguna Niguel brush fire

Thursday, May 19, 2022
Lawsuit alleges SoCal Edison to blame for Laguna Niguel brush fire
Families who lost their homes in the Coastal Fire are suing Southern California Edison, claiming the utility is to blame for the blaze that destroyed 20 homes and consumed 200 acres.

LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. (KABC) -- A lawsuit filed Tuesday against Southern California Edison alleges the company was liable for the brush fire in Laguna Niguel that destroyed 20 homes and damaged another 11 last week.

While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, the Newport Beach law firm of Bridgford, Gleason and Artinian filed suit on behalf of the victims who had their homes burned down, as well as on behalf of numerous evacuees.

"Based on our investigation to date and discussions with our consultants, we are informed and we strongly believe that the failure of the utility's equipment was responsible for the tragic loss of the victims' homes and their displacement," a statement from the firm said.

"Once again, the utility's failure to underground their dangerous electrical wires or to properly maintain their equipment has turned the lives of innocent homeowners completely upside down."

Laguna Niguel fire: 20 homes destroyed, another 11 damaged as 200-acre blaze forces evacuations

Twenty homes were destroyed and 11 were damaged by a brush fire in Laguna Niguel that spread rapidly amid strong winds, and crews continued to fight the flames Thursday.

The lawsuit claims that SCE's failure to properly clear brush and maintain its equipment "created the perfect storm for disaster" that sparked the devastating blaze.

"Had Defendants followed the standard of care in inspecting, maintaining, and repairing its overhead lines, properly maintaining its electrical equipment, and trimming away vegetation from its wires as required by law and industry standards, the catastrophic Coastal Fire could have been avoided," the lawsuit alleges.

"Instead, Defendants knowingly or negligently fell below those standards, and created the perfect storm for disaster when combined with the known presence of drought and dry vegetation which fuels this type of fire."

At least 20 homes in Laguna Niguel were destroyed Wednesday as a fast-moving brush fire spread rapidly and forced evacuations.

Attorney Richard Bridgford says new video shows the fire could be seen burning almost 20 minutes after the power company first reported equipment failure in the area.

"Based upon that and an abundance of other evidence which we've looked at we feel that the utility was responsible for the ignition of this fire," Bridgford said.

David Eisenhauer, spokesperson for Southern California Edison, said the following to Eyewitness News:

"Our thoughts are with the community members whose homes have been damaged and those who were evacuated because of the Coastal Fire, and we are coordinating with fire agencies as needed to ensure firefighter safety. It would be inappropriate to discuss any possible litigation."

Authorities said the fire burned about 200 acres, destroying 20 homes and damaging 11. The blaze is now 100% contained after it erupted last Wednesday and forced as many as 900 homes to be evacuated. All mandatory evacuation orders for those impacted by the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel were lifted on Wednesday.