Superior Court of California, County of Sonoma
This action arises from fire damage to real property, including the destruction of natural vegetation and soil. Douglas F. Pinter is represented by the Law Offices of Michael A. Fiumara.
Defendant Davey Tree Expert Company (hereinafter “Davey Tree”) is represented by Bob Stuart of McLarens Toplis North America, In. Pacific Gas & Electric Company (hereinafter “PG & E”) is represented by Rita Gilmore.
FACTS & ALLEGATIONS:
On July 31, 1996, a fast-moving wildfire scored 2,100 acres of brush and woodland in the Sonoma Valley and Napa County, causing approximately $3,000,000 in damage.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection determined that the wildfire resulted from PG & E’s negligence and/or PG & E’s negligent hiring, retention and supervision of Davey Tree.
The cause and origin of the fire was PG & E’s failure to clear trees around power lines. Inadequate clearance resulted in an arc from a faulty contact and/or a loose wire connection which ignited trees and vegetation.
PG & E “has accepted responsibility for the wildfire.” Liability was not in issue in this mediation, only the calculation of damages.
The law firm hired John Meserve of Horticultural Associates as the plaintiff’s expert whose calculations totaled $123,716.84 to replace the trees that were lot as follows:
26 Madrone Trees: $16,542.60
69 Manzanita Trees: $43,807.13
16 Douglas Fir trees: $14,058.73
83 Coast Live Oak trees: $49,308.38
193 total trees- Total Value of Trees to be Replaced:
The appraised value for only those trees and shrubs was evaluated to be a total of $123,716.84.
In addition to the replacement costs above, restoration costs were calculated and computed into the mediation award.
The above mentioned figure of $123,716.84 did not include the cost of clearing the destroyed areas, disposing of the debris or re-seeding or implementing erosion control measures to bring the land back to where it was prior to the fire and to prevent it from being further degraded.
Hence, an additional cost of restoration was arrived at of over $52,000.00 consisting of clearing costs, rehabilitation costs, and revegetation costs pursuant to various expert reports and opinions.
OTHER LOSSES AND CONSIDERATIONS:
After tedious negotiations, the unique esthetic value of the property had to be assigned an amount to compensate the plaintiff for the unique beauty of his showcase property.
Although the plaintiff lived on the premises part-time he also used the property for business purposes to promote his high-end real estate business to showcase high-end homes in Northern California. The property attracted well-heeled clients to purchase other similar properties in wine country.
But what was once a beautiful rural setting now resembled the scarred and pitted lunar surface of the moon, hence the Plaintiff deserved full compensation. Plaintiff’s attorney argued successfully that the plaintiff’s future business opportunity and reputation was somewhat scorched, if not damaged, by this unforgettable fire and ensuing disaster.
In addition to the above-mentioned factors, the plaintiff lost income in the amount of just one weeks’ wages but nonetheless, they were quite substantial since he was a very high income earner.
Thus the plaintiff’s lost income was carefully factored into the large confidential six-figure settlement that PG & E eventually paid to the plaintiff.
PG&E agreed to pay the plaintiff a Confidential Settlement to settle all claims by Mediator Craig Meredith, at SEDWICK, DETERT, MORAN& ARNOLD in San Francisco.