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PacifiCorp asks plaintiffs to side with its arguments

PacifiCorp is asking survivors of the 2020 Labor Day fires to endorse the company’s arguments against them as the first in a series of Phase II trials approaches.

In court filings Friday in Multnomah County Circuit Court, the company submitted requests for admissions for 10 plaintiffs in James et al vs. PacifiCorp ahead of a trial set for Jan. 8, 2024.

The trial will determine individual damages for the 10 plaintiffs after PacifiCorp was found liable in June for the Santiam, South Obenchain and Echo Mountain Complex and 242 fires.

Similar trials are set for February and April, 2024, and the outcomes will help determine the strength of remaining cases for roughly 5,000 class members.

According to Cornell Law School, requests for admissions involve parties responding under oath to a list of prepared questions, and are commonly used to establish undisputed facts prior to trial.

PacifiCorp’s Friday requests asked plaintiffs to admit to the claims the company has leveled against them that it argues releases it from liability.

Requests included admissions that plaintiffs did not see the fires start or watch the fires damage their property, and that plaintiffs took no steps to mitigate their own losses. Such arguments have been central to PacifiCorp’s formal denials of liability since the suit was filed in 2020 and during Phase II.

The company also asked plaintiffs to agree with its assertion that a June 12 jury verdict finding it negligently liable for the fires did not apply to the entire class. The requests specifically asked the 10 plaintiffs to admit “no jury has determined that PacifiCorp’s conduct caused each and every item of damage that you seek in this Phase II trial.”

Plaintiff attorneys have repeatedly argued the June 12 verdict determined the company was liable to all class members and Phase II is only to determine damages. They have accused PacifiCorp of improperly attempting to relitigate the issue.

As of press time, plaintiff attorneys had yet to respond to Friday’s filings.

According to Oregon civil procedures, parties have 45 days after being served with a request for admissions to respond or file an objection. If no response or objection is received, the matters at issue will be considered admitted and legally settled.

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