Wrongful-death lawsuits say Edison responsible for Montecito mudslide deaths

Josh Haskell Image
Thursday, March 29, 2018
Lawsuits blame Edison for Montecito mudslide deaths
Three wrongful death lawsuits argue Southern California Edison was responsible for the Thomas Fire and therefore also for the damage caused by the deadly mudslides in Montecito burn areas.

MONTECITO, Calif. (KABC) -- Three wrongful death lawsuits were filed Thursday by family of victims of the Montecito debris flow against Southern California Edison.

They say the mudslide wouldn't have happened without the Thomas Fire, which they believe the utility company is responsible for.

Lalo Barajas lost his partner of 17 years, Peter Fleurat. Little remains now of their home.

Up the street, Carie Baker-Corey was home at the time of the debris flow with her two twin daughters and stepdaughter.

Severely injured, Carie and daughter Summer Corey survived.

Her other daughter Sawyer and 25-year-old stepdaughter Morgan did not.

"What I hope comes of it is that we all feel safe again," Carie Baker-Corey said. "I'm afraid to live back in my neighborhood I've been in for 49 years of my life. I'm afraid and I don't want this to ever happen again."

Baker-Corey's attorney says their investigation has found the Thomas Fire above Montecito created hydrophobic soil, perfect for a mudslide.

"It actually changes the conditions of the soil and it burns all the trees, root structures which is what keeps the soil together. And when all of that is gone and you're on a hillside, mountainous region, that exposes you to mudslides when there's heavy rains," said attorney Rahul Ravipudi with Panish, Shea & Boyle.

Southern California Edison won't comment on lawsuits until the investigation into what caused the Thomas Fire is complete.