(Reuters) – A $117 million settlement has been reached with former PG&E Corp. executives and directors accused in a lawsuit of lax oversight of the company’s safety measures before the 2017 North Bay and 2018 Camp fires, two of California’s most destructive wildfires.
The settlement was announced Thursday by the PG&E Fire Victim Trust, which compensates victims of fires started by parent company Pacific Gas & Electric between 2015 and 2018.
Frank Pitre, an attorney for the trust, said in a statement that the settlement was among the largest of its kind, and that money will be used to pay the “vast majority” of claims held by federal agencies that helped fight the fires.
PG&E assigned the trust the right to pursue claims against executives and board members when the utility emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2020.
More than 48,800 fire victims have already received $4.91 billion in payments. Insurers often cover settlement payments from company executives and directors.
In a statement, PG&E called the settlement a “step forward” in its effort to resolve problems that preceded its bankruptcy in January 2019.
The North Bay fires, sometimes called the Wine Country fires, broke out in October 2017 in Napa, Sonoma and nearby counties. They caused at least 44 deaths, burned more than 245,000 hectares and damaged or destroyed many vineyards.
Thirteen months later, the upstate campfire killed 85 people, burned more than 153,000 acres and destroyed most of Paradise, California, a town of about 26,000 people. It remains the state’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire.
The trust said the North Bay fires could have been prevented if PG&E had shut off power earlier, while the Campfire was caused by PG&E’s failure to inspect and maintain its aging equipment and infrastructure.
Mr. Pitre said the bankruptcy court requires certain settlements to be used to satisfy claims by federal agencies.