Edison International said that much of the damage caused by the mudslides that flowed through the coastal town of Montecito last year was the result of badly designed and maintained debris pools for which local authorities are responsible.
The parent company and its utility for Southern California Edison Co. Friday cross-examined the city and the county of Santa Barbara, among other things that a substantial part of the liability for the damage would have to be shifted to government agencies responsible for the inadequate infrastructure.
Edison is blamed for mudflows because the company's equipment may have ignited the forest fires that led them.
"With this complaint, we want to ensure that there is a comprehensive assessment of the role many parties may have played in the large and tragic losses suffered by the community during the Montecito mudslides," Edison said in a statement.
"It is known that the Montecito area always had a high risk of mudflows and debris flows," according to the company. "We believe that governments in cities, provinces and federal states, including authorities for flooding, water management and transport, have not ensured that the Montecito infrastructure was sufficient to reduce the impact of such natural disasters."
Lawyers representing the public entities in the legal proceedings did not respond immediately to a request for comment on the incidental complaint from Edison.
Edison is faced with more than 75 lawsuits and claims that the utility company is liable for the mudslides of Montecito on January 9, 2018. On that day the first rain shower of the year hit the scorched mountains above the city and mud and rocks crashed down , overwhelming creek beds and rubble basins. More than 20 people reportedly died in the disaster and a preliminary report estimated the material damage at $ 177 million to $ 204 million.
Montecito homeowners blame Edison for the disaster, believing that the Thomasbrand that raged in the mountains last month, destroying much of the vegetation that would have kept the ground together during the winter storm, was caused by the high-voltage lines of the utility.
The effort to avert liability is not surprising, but the effort is higher than ever for a utility company in a state where the consequences of global warming are a fire season that now lasts all year. San Francisco-based PG & E Corp. said this week that it filed for bankruptcy after the cost of forest fires left it with potential liabilities of $ 30 billion or more.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has not yet decided what caused the Thomas Fire. Edison said in October that his equipment was associated with inflammation near one of the two origin points. The Thomas brand set a record for the largest forest fire in California history, surpassed by an even worse fire at the end of last year in Northern California.
Edison said in his incidental complaint that even if his equipment was involved in one of Thomas Fire's sites, this is not necessarily responsible for any or all damage caused by fire or mud. According to Fitch Ratings, Southern California Edison is facing more than $ 4 billion in possible damages from the Thomas Fire.
The case is Southern California Fire Cases, JCCP4965, California Superior Court, Los Angeles County.
Copyright 2019 Bloomberg.
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