News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

PacifiCorp won’t settle as it pursues new trial

PacifiCorp does not expect to settle claims after the conclusion of upcoming Phase II trials in a wildfire lawsuit as they push instead for a re-do of Phase I that concluded in June.

During a hearing Thursday in Multnomah County Circuit Court, the company claimed there are numerous reasons to restart Phase I, from alleged evidentiary errors to alleged prejudicial testimony.

PacifiCorp attorney Alison Plessman said, with so many unresolved challenges and potential future appeals, settlements and other Phase II proceedings were non-starters.

“If (Phase II trials) aren’t successful in driving resolution, which we expect they won’t be given the number of outstanding issues including the ones we’re talking about today, the parties are going to be embarking on years and years of further Phase II trials,” said Plessman. 

“And what that means is, if the (Oregon) Court of Appeals sees any of these issues our way, we’re going to have to start the whole process over,” she continued.

The hearing primarily addressed PacifiCorp’s motion to vacate a June 12 jury verdict finding it responsible for the Santiam, Obenchain, Echo Mountain and 242 fires on Sept. 8, 2020. The jury awarded $90 million to 17 plaintiffs, and found PacifiCorp liable for additional damages to a class of roughly 5,000 fire survivors.

At the close of Thursday’s hearing, Judge Steffan Alexander took the motion to vacate under advisement and said he would issue a ruling on this and other pending motions by Dec. 1.

This comes as Phase II trials are scheduled for Jan. 8, Feb. 26 and April 22, 2024, to determine damages for 22 class members. Alexander has said the goal of these bellwether trials, as well as classwide mediation scheduled after the April trial, is to encourage out-of-court resolutions.

During Thursday’s hearing, PacifiCorp argued the jury’s decision was based entirely on circumstantial evidence and the damages they awarded exceeded damages allowed under the law. 

The company also argued Alexander wrongfully allowed evidence prejudicial to PacifiCorp and suppressed evidence favorable to the company, and claimed no evidence actually linked them to the fires.

Plaintiff attorney Nicholas Rosnia said the lack of direct proof was a result of PacifiCorp’s deliberate efforts to destroy evidence after the fires. He said numerous witnesses, including those called by PacifiCorp, showed the company was responsible and PacifiCorp’s arguments for a return to Phase I were “frankly unbelievable.”

“There’s simply no error here whatsoever,” said Rosinia.

Previous Article

Mill City council voting to fill two vacancies

Next Article

Linn County Sheriff’s Office Log: Nov. 7 – 12

You might be interested in …

Oregon Department of Education

Oregon Statewide Report Card available online

The 2022-23 edition of the Oregon Statewide Report Card is now available on the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) website. This annual look at Oregon’s kindergarten through grade 12 education system includes key data on […]