Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

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Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits
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Families and victims affected by the January 9th debris flow have filed wrongful death lawsuits against Southern California Edison.

On Thursday, March 29 at 11 a.m., attorneys with Panish Shea & Boyle LLP and the Wildfire Victim Advocates legal group held a press conference in Montecito to announce the filing of the lawsuit against Southern California Edison (SCE) on behalf of the victims of the Montecito Mudslides.

Plaintiffs include Santa Barbara County resident and mother Carie Baker-Corey who was swept away with her twin daughters Summer and Sawyer Corey (both 12) and their half-sister Morgan Corey (25) by fast-moving debris flow that demolished their Montecito home. Morgan and Sawyer were both killed in the catastrophic mudslide. Carie and Summer were later found in critical condition and continue on their long road to recovery.

“It was like an avalanche, coming at 100 mph, breaking through our home and forcing us down the creek" recalls Carie Baker-Corey. "We were holding hands as long as we could. I'll never forget the look of terror on Morgan's face as she was pulled under & disappeared."

Morgan, Sawyer, Carie, and Summer Baker-Corey

The law firms of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP and Rogers Sheffield & Campbell have joined forces and resources to investigate and prosecute claims in which they feel SCE is responsible.

According to the law firms, the Los Angeles County-based utility company knew about the significant risk of wildfires stemming from its unsafe equipment, aging infrastructure, and ineffective vegetation management system for many years before the Thomas Fire began, and has been repeatedly fined or cited for failing to mitigate these risks. The Thomas Fire and mudslides were the inevitable byproducts of SCE's willful and conscious disregard of public safety, they said in a public statement.

SCE responded by stating, "The Thomas fire has obviously had an impact on many individuals, but the origin and cause of the fire continue to be under investigation and no report has yet been issued. This and other lawsuits are not based on findings related to an investigation. Therefore, it would be premature for SCE to comment on the origin or cause of the wildfire.”

The press conference announcing this lawsuit is available below courtesy of KEYT News.

A separate wrongful death lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Santa Barbara Superior Court against SCE. 

Ralph "Lalo" Barajas lost his partner Peter Fleurat and the home they shared in the debris flow on January 9th. His attorneys allege SCE's faulty electrical equipment created the conditions that lead to the Thomas Fire and the deadly mudslide in Montecito.

Lalo Barajas (left) and Peter Fleurat (right)

Representing Fleurat's family are attorneys Alexander Robertson IV, of Westlake Village; Peter Bezek, of Foley Bezek Behle & Curtis LLP in Santa Barbara; Joseph Liebman of Santa Barbara; and Geoff Spreter of San Diego. In total, 17 lawsuits have been filed on behalf of 250 victims from the Thomas Fire and Montecito mudslide, reports KEYT.


Past Articles

 January 26, 2018: Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against SoCal Edison for Thomas Fire and Montecito Mudslide Damages

 February 2, 2018: Remembering Peter Fleurat

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Yeti Mar 29, 2018 12:11 PM
Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

It is definitely part of our American Culture for a feeding frenzy to begin when there is a little blood in the water. The attorneys started licking their chops when the fire was burning and definitely began their war dance on January 9th. Remember, THEY ARE JUST SUING YOU AND I. IF they get an award from SCE, it just means that YOUR electricity rates are going up for the rest of your children's lives. It is hard to look at any of this calamity as anything but an "Act of God". 70+ mph winds in Ventura County is almost guaranteed to send some sort of roofing or tree parts into a power line and start a fire... period. And the really sad thing is that the only winner of a lawsuit like this is the ATTORNEYS, not the clients. There is always very little left for the victims after the attorneys take their cut and pay their expenses. I feel very deeply sad for the people that lost family and property, but this really is not going to make it all better.

a-1522351172 Mar 29, 2018 12:19 PM
Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Exactly - if SCE is at fault, what do all you anti-lawyers out there think? Do we let them skirt liability just because you don't like lawyers? And again, YETI, the "70+ mph winds" were caused by the fire, not the other way around. We don't get 70 mph wind here. We get fires that drive wind into frenzies like this due to the massive heat and wind coming off the fire, but not the other way around. Acts of God are tornadoes, earthquakes, etc.... A massive wildfire sparked by SCE's faulty equipment (if this is found to be the actual cause) is NOT an "act of God," it is an act of negligence. When you screw up, you pay for the damages. It's simple.

a-1522351426 Mar 29, 2018 12:23 PM
Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

SELF EDIT: Oops, my bad! The 70 mph winds were driving the fire. But, that doesn't change the theory that, if SCE's equipment was the cause of the spark that ignited the fire, then SCE should be liable.

a-1522352341 Mar 29, 2018 12:39 PM
Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Doesn't really matter if they are at fault or not. They will NOT pay for a settlement or a loss in court. WE, those with electric bills, will be the lucky people paying for the settlement with higher rates for many years to come. I did a little digging and found nothing about SCE being fined many times in the past for poor maintenance or neglect for brush removal. If they did or not, it is still an Act of God - can't sue Mother Nature.

a-1522353204 Mar 29, 2018 12:53 PM
Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Apparently you did not "dig" very hard for evidence of SCE being punished for faulty equipment. A simple Google search brought this LA Times article up, "Power lines and electrical equipment are a leading cause of California wildfires," In it, the article states that "regulators have hit the state's investor-owned utilities with tens of millions of dollars in fines related to wildfires, including $37 million for the 2007 Malibu fire (Southern California Edison);........"___________ So, the whole "Act of God" theory about fires just "happening" is kind of silly, you think?

Roger Mar 29, 2018 12:50 PM
Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

I would not sue but I would like to be paid back for my loved ones as far as I'm concerned that would be like their actions killed my loved ones I would think it would make them more than acceptable toward covering my loss there would be alternatives though.

a-1522530708 Mar 31, 2018 02:11 PM
Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

I don't think that's quite fair, Factotum. There were voluntary evacuation zones during the Thomas Fire. I was in one. I was also downtown, and figured a whole city would pretty much need to burn before the fire got to me. So I stayed, figuring my risks were low. I remember how fast the Painted Cave fire moved, but in this case, I knew the firefighters were at the top, defending the first line of structures. I bet that I'd be ok, and my bet turned out to be correct. Those in the voluntary evacuation zones before 1/8/18 probably looked at the weather map, have been thru storms before and not slid, made a similar calculus, and unfortunately, their bet was wrong. Sheriff Brown summed it up right: people heard 'voluntary', not 'evacuation'.

Channelfog Mar 29, 2018 03:51 PM
Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Those that have suffered extreme losses from this geologic/atmospheric tragedy are grasping at straws, and are encouraged by ambulance chasing lawyers. What has happened is the geologic reality of living in this area, nothing more. It was peaceful for many decades, but not now. Will Edison be blamed for the 8-9 earthquake when it finally hits? Probably!

CoastWatch Mar 29, 2018 04:25 PM
Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

SCE and PGE have been negligent for DECADES in maintaining their infrastructure and have thus been the cause of Billions of taxpayer dollars fighting large conflagration fires over the years... I hope they get SLAMMED and their Management Teams no longer receive the Hundreds of Millions of dollars in annual "bonuses" because of it.
The Public Utility Commission has dropped the ball on holding these monopoly power companies for upgrading and maintaining their infrastructure that runs through our public lands--- HAMMER THEM HARD!

Factotum Mar 30, 2018 09:34 AM
Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

SCE is a pubic utility- if you "slam them hard" you are the one picking up the bill. Plus there were illegal drug camp raids in that exact same area only a month prior, one mile from the Thomas Aquinas campus. Any connection to finding hot plates and gas fired generators in those very same illegal drug camps?

pstarSR Mar 29, 2018 04:54 PM
Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

sadly, these lawyers saw money signs when this happened. Its not because they care.

Im guessing they are getting atleast 40% of the settlement for "taking the case". If they can prove edison's neglect caused the fire, and later flooding. Then I hope the victims will get some closure and most of the settlement, but seeing the advertisements for "flood lawyers" on facebook make me think that isnt going to happen. I hope those affected find a way to get closure and move on, this could draw out for years and never let the living victims stop thinking about the disaster.

a-1522368099 Mar 29, 2018 05:01 PM
Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

People suffered losses (more than you can imagine) and, if these losses were found to be caused by SCE, shouldn't they be made whole again (or at least as much as possible)? I understand all of your frustration with the "ambulance chasers" out there, but please understand there are many lawyers trying to help these people recoup the losses suffered due to SCE's negligence. These lawyers are doing this because it is their job. They work harder than most of you ever have or will in your lives (they certainly don't have time for online comments all day long) and have chosen a hated profession (look at your comments) in order to help others. There are, of course the scum bag lawyers, but they're easy to distinguish. Please try to remember that.

Factotum Mar 29, 2018 09:42 PM
Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

The deaths sadly were caused by people ignoring both common sense and evacuation warnings. Those who lived creekside and in its flood paths had a duty to understand the dangerous conditions they were facing.

Factotum Mar 29, 2018 09:47 PM
Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Property owners have an obligation to insure their property. Persons living in known hazardous areas have a duty to protect themselves, regardless of official warnings, which in this case were ignored anyway. Insurance will cover property losses. Those who lost family and friends will need to finally make peace with their God.

a-1522556785 Mar 31, 2018 09:26 PM
Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

I agree! All bad mouthing until something happens in which case you just might want one. I worked for a law office that pursued unfit teachers -- yeah, you can only imagine how bad it really is. I have worked with and met some amazing, committed to moral rules, lawyers. And I do support the ACLU and other organizations that work for those who can't afford lawyers.

sb93105 Mar 31, 2018 12:22 PM
Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

I'm curious why the debris flow/mudslides didn't happen anywhere but in Montecito, when there was so much acreage burned from Santa Paula to Santa Barbara? How often do the creeks get cleaned in Montecito and what measures were taken to prevent clogs in the case of any event? It appears to be isolated to our areas creeks? A google search for the local 1995 Floods provides a lot of information in any case.

a-1522527649 Mar 31, 2018 01:20 PM
Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

It's not about preventative maintenance as much as the sheer volume of water dumped on a specific site in a very short period of time. From all accounts the debris flow topped the banks of creeks 2-5 times over, that is creeks with 15ft banks saw a 45ft wall of mud, tree trunks and boulders galloping down hill. You can't plan for such rare weather events or nothing would get done as everything would be overbuilt to the hilt and expensive as all get out.

tagdes Mar 31, 2018 02:40 PM
Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Topography and and the rate of rainfall per hour or as in this case per 15 minutes.
This has been explained many times on the TV news and other sources.'s not always the same everywhere
Sort of like why tornadoes and lightning strikes only happen where they happen.

a-1522538827 Mar 31, 2018 04:27 PM
Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

carrie is the most wonderfull and courageos woman i know, i hope sce takes responsibility for its lack of action, sce is worth 45 billion dollars and has an annual income of 700-800 million, ever checked your bills lately...RIP OFF

richyrich Apr 01, 2018 08:55 AM
Montecito Mudslide Victims File Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Days and days of warnings in advance! Warnings of the potential for catastrophic mudslides! People don't listen! People die! Take some personal responsibility for yourself! Now they want to jump on board with a bunch of rotten lawyers and sue SCE? These people are nothing more than high-class dirtbags!

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