According to a Multnomah County, Oregon jury, equipment owned by Berkshire Hathaway-owned regulated utility PacifiCorp played a role in the Labor Day wildfires that swept through the state in 2020, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
A substantial amount of damage was caused by fires in southern Oregon, according to a verdict by jurors, and PacifiCorp was found to owe $73 million in losses and emotional suffering. Punitive damages may also be awarded, meaning that figure could grow.
This amount will be awarded to a group of 17 plaintiffs, and the case also opens the utility to further lawsuits in future proceedings, according to OPB.
During the proceedings, prosecutors argued the utility should have known from weather reports and climate models that the extremely dry conditions on the ground that year had the potential to spark wildfires that could not be controlled. They argued the utility’s decision to keep lines energized resulted in the loss of homes and other damages.
Lawyers for the utility argued it was important to balance safety precautions with its responsibility to keep the power on. They added that PacifiCorp has a well-developed wildfire mitigation program.