A new lawsuit alleges that The Boeing Co. was responsible for the deadly wildfire that ravaged Southern California last fall.
The suit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, is the first to accuse Boeing of playing a role in the Woolsey Fire, which scorched more than 100,000 acres and killed three people in the Los Angeles area. The suit also names Southern California Edison and its parent corporation, Edison International, which face 18 other lawsuits over the Nov. 8 fire.
Boeing owns the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, former site of Rocketdyne, where the suit says California fire officials believe the Woolsey Fire started. The suit alleges that Boeing and Southern California Edison failed to maintain overhead electrical facilities on the property, and that Boeing did not “have an adequate fire-prevention program, or have adequately trained fire-suppression personnel in place.”
“There were issues with respect to vegetation and vegetation management, issues with the response of the fire unit they have there, and whether they were properly activated,” said Ronald Goldman of Los Angeles-based Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, which filed the suit on behalf of more than 100 residents and business owners. “This is a high fire-prone area, and they’ve had valuable facilities out there for a long time.”
Also on the suit were Robert F. Kennedy Jr. of Kennedy & Madonna in Hurley, New York, and Brian Strange, of Los Angeles-based Strange & Butler. Kennedy teamed with Baum Hedlund on the first trial over Monsanto Co.’s Roundup, which ended with a $289 million verdict last year, and Strange personally fought off flames from the Woolsey Fire that threatened his own Malibu home.
Boeing denied the allegations.
“Security and fire personnel stationed at Santa Susana immediately responded when the fire was first reported and also promptly notified firefighting agencies,” wrote spokeswoman C.J. Nothum in an email. “Upon arrival, the county and municipal fire jurisdictions established incident command over the firefighting activities. Cal Fire [California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection] is conducting an investigation into the origins of the fire. The California Public Utilities Commission is also conducting an investigation. Boeing is fully cooperating with these investigations.”
Southern California Edison said, “At this time, SCE is not commenting on any lawsuits associated with the Woolsey Fire, as an ongoing investigation is underway by Cal Fire and Ventura County Fire. SCE is fully cooperating in their investigation.”
The suit, which seeks an unspecified amount of punitive damages against Edison and Boeing, comes as a Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Tuesday ordered 18 lawsuits over the Woolsey Fire to be coordinated before a single judge. It also comes as another utility, PG&E Corp., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Jan. 29, citing $30 billion in legal liabilities tied to wildfires that took place at the same time as the Woolsey Fire, but in Northern California. Those fires killed 85 people and charred 150,000 acres.
Read the full complaint here: