Three brothers of a 73-year-old retired oncologist who died during the 2018 Woolsey Fire are suing Southern California Edison, blaming the utility’s alleged negligence for their sibling’s death.
The Woolsey Fire ignited Nov. 8 and scorched thousands of acres, destroyed more than 1,500 structures and killed three people, including Dr. Alfred deCiutiis of Agoura Hills.
Known as “Doctor D,” the retired oncologist had lived in his home for 30 years. The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed Tuesday by his brothers, Ernest, Charles and Robert deCiutiis, alleges wrongful death and negligence and seeks unspecified damages.
SCE previously issued a statement regarding lawsuits stemming from the fire.
“At this time, SCE is not commenting on any lawsuits associated with the Woolsey Fire, as an ongoing investigation is underway by Cal Fire and Ventura County Fire,” the statement read. “SCE is fully cooperating in their investigation.”
The brothers’ suit alleges the Woolsey Fire was caused by SCE’s negligence in failing to maintain its overhead electrical facilities in a safe manner, by not trimming vegetation and by not shutting down the Big Rock 16kV electrical circuit to prevent such a wildfire during windy weather.
On Nov. 9, deCiutiis spoke with a family member by cell phone and complained that it had become cold in his residence because power had been shut off, according to the suit.
“He indicated that he did not understand why power restoration was taking so long,” the suit says. “The doctor walked outside his home and surveyed the mountains and valley that he could see from his property. He observed neither smoke nor flames. No sirens were alerting residents of fire danger, and no police or fire personnel had contacted him.”
The complaint says the physician went back into his home and during the next few hours, the fire lit up the mountains above Malibu, where he lived.
“There was no warning at all,” the suit says.
When relatives reached the doctor’s home, only the chimney remained.
“Everything else was destroyed,” the suit says. “There was no sign of Dr. Alfred.”
After law enforcement members left, a family member continued to look for deCiutiis and called authorities again, according to the complaint.
“A cadaver dog was brought to the area,” the suit states. “Eventually the dog located the only remains of Dr. Alfred: two small pieces of vertebrae and a femur bone.”
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