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PacifiCorp to pay $178 million to Oregon wildfire victims in latest settlement from deadly 2020 fires

PORTLAND, Ore. — Pacific Power, part of PacifiCorp, said Monday it agreed to a $178 settlement with more than 400 Oregon plaintiffs in the latest multimillion-dollar payout related to the deadly 2020 wildfires that ravaged the state.

In other cases that have gone to trial over the past year, Oregon juries, in multiple verdicts, have ordered PacifiCorp to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to victims. Ongoing litigation could cost him billions.

The majority of the 403 plaintiffs in Monday’s settlement were affected by the Echo Mountain Resort Fire that devastated the central Oregon coast, said George McCoy, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, while others were affected by the Santiam Fire that raged east of the state capital. Salem, in northwest Oregon.

In a statement, the utility said it has settled nearly 1,500 claims resulting from the 2020 Labor Day wildfires. The fires are among the worst natural disasters in Oregon history, killing nine people, burning more than 1,875 square miles (4,856 square kilometers) and destroying thousands of homes and other structures.

“We think this is a great way for our clients to rebuild and recover from these traumatic events, and we think it will give them the opportunity to start that process now,” McCoy said.

PacifiCorp faces other lawsuits stemming from the fires, including one filed last month by dozens of Oregon wineries and wineries seeking more than $100 million in damages. In their lawsuit, the wine producers allege that the utility’s decision not to shut off power during the Labor Day windstorm contributed to fires whose smoke and soot damaged their grapes and reduced their harvest and their sales.

Last June, a jury found PacifiCorp liable for negligently failing to turn off power to its 600,000 customers despite warnings from top fire officials. The jury determined that he acted negligently and willfully and should have to pay punitive and other damages — a decision that applied to a class of up to 2,500 property owners.

Thousands of other class members are still awaiting trial, although the parties are also expected to engage in mediation that could lead to a settlement.

Last week, Oregon utility regulators rejected a request from PacifiCorp to limit its liability in wildfire lawsuits.

Under the proposal, the utility would have been responsible only for paying actual economic damages through lawsuits. The Oregon Public Utilities Commission said the request was too broad and such a measure would prohibit compensation for non-economic damages such as pain, mental suffering and emotional distress.

ABC News

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