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

PacifiCorp appeals $94.7M Phase II jury award

PacifiCorp is appealing a $79.8 million judgment from the first Phase II damages trial in James et al vs. PacifiCorp as part of an ongoing appeal of a $94.7 million judgment from Phase I.

On April 26, PacifiCorp notified Multnomah County Circuit Court it was amending an original appeal it filed Jan. 4 with the Oregon Court of Appeals and was incorporating the newer judgment.

A jury awarded damages on Jan. 23 to nine survivors of the 2020 Labor Day fires, and on April 19 Multnomah County Judge Steffan Alexander entered an official judgment awarding $79.8 million.

It is this specific judgment PacifiCorp is appealing, as well as a Dec. 22, 2023, judgment awarding $94.7 million from a Phase I trial in 2023.

Opening briefs detailing PacifiCorp’s concerns about the judgments had yet to be filed with the appeals court as of press time. The company has previously criticized the jury’s decisions as baseless, and claimed it was not afforded due process during the trials.

The Phase I jury found PacifiCorp liable June 12, 2023, for negligently causing the Santiam, Echo Mountain Complex, South Obenchain and 242 fires in 2020. Phase II then began to determine damages to an estimated class of roughly 5,000 people.

PacifiCorp has denied wrongdoing and claims it followed established protocol when it chose not to de-energize its equipment amid high heat and wind conditions.

After the first Phase II trial, a second trial concluded March 8 and resulted in a $42.4 million award. A third damages trial set for April 22 was canceled after these plaintiffs settled with PacifiCorp.

Plaintiffs have asked for additional jury trials to be set and on April 29 filed 1,000 individual claims they believe are ready to try.

PacifiCorp has previously challenged the Phase I and the first Phase II verdicts in the lower court and requested that correct rulings be entered by Alexander or for a new trial to be held. Alexander denied these requests on Dec. 1, 2023, and March 25, respectively, upholding plaintiff’s argument that evidence of PacifiCorp’s negligence and liability was overwhelming.

A similar challenge to the March 8 verdict was filed March 29 and as of press time remained pending before Alexander.

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