A Malibu winery and multiple homeowners in that city are suing Southern California Edison Co., blaming the utility for their property losses from the Woolsey Fire.
The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, filed Tuesday, seeks unspecified damages on allegations of negligence, inverse condemnation, nuisance, premises liability and violations of the Public Utilities and Health & Safety codes. The lead plaintiff is winery Cielo Farms LLC.
“Plaintiffs, through no fault of their own, went from homeowners to homeless in a matter of hours,” the suit states.
The utility issued a statement late Thursday morning regarding the lawsuit.
“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.”
According to the lawsuit, SCE knew its overhead electrical equipment had caused previous fires during Santa Ana wind events, but still failed to shut off circuits. The suit alleges the utility’s inaction “resulted in the ignition of the Woolsey Fire.”
“Plaintiffs allege SCE’s electrical equipment … caused the Woolsey Fire, demonstrating a reckless pattern of destroying entire communities through its unsafe operation of its overhead electrical equipment,” according to the suit.
The blaze, which ignited on Nov. 8 and burned nearly 100,000 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, destroyed more than 1,600 structures and killed three people. Nearly 300,000 people were evacuated.
The Woolsey Fire destroyed 3,000 Cielo Farms vines, multiple structures and 1,400 trees, causing a multimillion-dollar business loss, according to the suit, which describes Cielo Farms as “an iconic winery, vineyard and wedding event venue.”
“The plaintiff’s venue was voted the No. 1 wedding venue in Los Angeles County for the three years preceding the fire,” according to the suit, which includes photos of the winery and other affected properties before and after the fire.
Two other plaintiffs, John David Knight and Dorothy Louise Blowers, spent millions of dollars restoring a $20 million residential property that included a home designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright just three weeks before the fire, the suit says. The blaze completely destroyed the home and all of the improvements, the plaintiffs say.
Consisting of more than 100 acres and featuring hundreds of trees, a pond and a natural habitat, the property had been used as a location for movies, commercials and other income-generating activities, the suit states.