Morning Briefing - February 13, 2019
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February 13, 2019

Boeing, Southern California Edison Targeted in Woolsey Fire Lawsuit

By ExchangeMonitor

A lawsuit filed by local landowners claims negligence by Boeing and Southern California Edison is partly to blame for a wildfire that charred almost 100,000 acres of land in Los Angeles and Ventura counties in California.

The complaint against the airplane manufacturer and the electric power company was filed Feb. 5 in California Superior Court for Los Angeles County. The group of 100 landowners and renters affected by the Woolsey Fire are represented by several “wildfire attorneys” and environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., according to a law firm news release.

The litigation claims a malfunction by one of SCE’s overhead power lines or a substation, located inside the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), triggered the fire on Nov. 8. The SSFL is a 2,800-acre property for which Boeing is a primary owner.

Boeing, NASA, and the Energy Department are responsible for cleanup of the site, which was used for decades of research for nuclear power and the space program. California officials have said the blaze did not cause any spread of radioactive contamination from DOE structures at Santa Susana.

The fire was able to quickly spread in part because of Boeing’s poor firefighting services inside the SSFL property, according to the suit. Boeing is supposed to have private firefighters in place at SSFL, but first responders to the blaze had a hard time finding any, according to the suit.

Boeing disagrees.

“Security and fire personnel stationed at Santa Susana immediately responded when the fire was first reported and also promptly notified firefighting agencies,” said Boeing spokesperson C.J. Nothum in a statement. “Upon arrival, the county and municipal fire jurisdictions established incident command over the firefighting activities. “Cal Fire is conducting an investigation into the origins of the fire,” and Boeing is cooperating.

The plaintiffs are seeking an unspecified amount of punitive and exemplary damages.  The damages are sought for issues such as property damage, lost wages, evacuation costs and medical expenses.