Lawsuit Filed Against PG&E After San Bruno Fire Death

Jessica Morales’ Family Takes Aim in Hope of Forcing PG&E to Focus on Public Safety

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 26, 2011 – Israel and Rene Morales, the parents of Jessica Morales, today filed a wrongful death lawsuit (Case No. CGC-11-507629) in San Francisco Superior Court against Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E). Morales perished when PG&E’s natural gas line exploded in the City of San Bruno and ignited a blaze that ripped through the neighborhood. The suit, filed by John M. Feder of Rouda, Feder, Tietjen & McGuinn and Debra F. Bogaards of Bogaards Davis LLP, accuses PG&E of negligence and ultrahazardous and abnormally dangerous activity.

“Jessica’s death has devastated the Morales family, and it was entirely preventable if PG&E had done its job. Her parents, her three siblings and the entire Bay Area community need confirmation that PG&E has rectified the hazardous condition of its gas pipeline and is no longer endangering the public,” said Feder.

On the evening of Sept. 9, 2010, 20-year-old Morales, who worked part-time at a San Bruno ice cream shop and had attended classes at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University, was visiting her boyfriend at his house at 1701 Earl Street. At about 6:15 p.m., the gas line exploded and fire ripped through the neighborhood and the home. Jessica Morales fled the home, running toward a neighboring property at 1711 Earl Street. Her family was frantic throughout the night as Jessica could not be located. Rene and Israel went to the San Bruno Police and all local hospitals looking for their daughter. Jessica was discovered in a shed outside of 1711 Earl Street, burned to death, at 5:50 a.m. the next day.

“PG&E had knowledge of this pipeline’s defective condition but put profits ahead of public safety. No one should have lost loved ones or suffered injuries or damage to their homes. The Morales family, like so many San Bruno residents, has waited for months to learn what PG&E will do to protect our communities and prevent similar disasters,” Feder added. “Here we are, more than four months later, and PG&E has not explained what went wrong nor taken adequate protective measures. What is clear is that PG&E records did not indicate this aging pipeline had been welded together, and the NTSB has confirmed that its inspection revealed the welding was defective when it was performed in 1956. If PG&E had complied with safety rules, this horrific incident would not have occurred.”

The complaint outlines a “long list of PG&E incidents and safety lapses” in the years prior to the explosion, as well as calling out that “state regulators cited PG&E 411 times for safety violations in its gas operations.” It notes: “PG&E accrued approximately six times as many violations as its San Diego counterpart, Sempra Energy, which owns more pipeline.”

“The Morales family’s pain is even greater given the ample warnings PG&E had about the risk of an explosion and PG&E’s deplorable safety record, which includes nine other explosions that have injured or killed 16 people. The family hopes their efforts to hold PG&E accountable will help protect others from this needless and preventable danger,” said Bogaards, co-counsel in the lawsuit.

The explosion and subsequent fire are reported to have caused eight deaths and more than 50 injuries, destroyed 37 homes and damaged another 120 residences.