Flood of Fire, Mudslide Litigation Expected

Attorney Gerald Singleton speaks Jan. 16 at Impact Hub.

— Photo by Sarita Relis

Already at least 10 lawsuits have been filed in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles in the wake of recent disasters and a flood of more are expected aimed at Southern California Edison, said an attorney who specializes in fire insurance Jan. 16. 

The discussion was part of a series at Impact Hub, 1117 State St., to help businesses and residents with their insurance policies after the fire and mudslide. A similar discussion is planned for 6 p.m. Jan. 23. 

Gerald Singleton spoke to some South Coast business owners and other attorneys with the California Fire Lawyers group to discuss the ramifications of the Thomas fire and Montecito mudslide. 

“I talked to a client who said it looked like an (electrical) transformer blew” and ignited the fire at one point, Singleton said. “We know Edison was involved, but won’t know (exactly how) until after the inspection.” 

He said it appears some arcing power lines were also to blame for the fire, which apparently started at two locations around Santa Paula.  

The area was declared a crime scene, the investigation process will take four to six months and it will cost $1 million to prove liability, he said. 

“The flood was caused by the fire” because the inferno denuded the hills above Montecito and a heavy rain storm brought water, mud and debris down the hills where scores of homes were destroyed or damaged. 

Singleton said, “It’s not so much the amount of rain that fell, but how fast it comes.” More than half an inch of rain reportedly fell in five minutes in the wee hours of Jan. 9. 

One of the attorneys present Jan. 16, Alicia Journey, had to evacuate her family twice because of the fire and mudslide. She found her demolished car on the beach the morning after the flood and lost her house. 

Typically, after a year, the utility might settle or go to court, Singleton said. 

Another attendee Jan. 16, Kristina Cydzik, said recovery in the area will take from five to 10 years. “For the next several years, we will have to pay a lot of attention to the weather forecast,” she said. 

The county is trying to excavate debris basins now, she said. “Hiking is very dangerous because of rockslides,” Cydzik said. 

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