Details in works for PG&E trials

Attorneys representing PG&E and more than 100 San Bruno residents who have sued the utility over the Sept. 9 gas line explosion are expected to meet for the first time to begin planning court proceedings Thursday.

At least 35 separate lawsuits from eight firms have been filed against PG&E in connection with the disaster, which killed eight people and destroyed or seriously damaged 55 homes.

Almost all the plaintiffs accuse PG&E of negligence for failing to properly maintain or inspect the San Bruno pipeline that exploded. Also, many seek damages for physical or emotional injuries.

All but a couple suits were filed in San Mateo County Superior Court, which assigned Judge Steven Dylina to handle those cases. PG&E and the plaintiffs’ lawyers are expected to pick a date today for a future status conference with Dylina to hash out how the cases will be handled, including a timeline for trial dates.

But at least two cases were filed in San Francisco, prompting PG&E to ask the state’s judicial council to assign all the cases related to the blast to a single San Mateo County judge. The council has yet to rule on that request.

Michael Danko, a San Mateo attorney who has filed seven lawsuits in San Mateo County on behalf of victims, said it is somewhat unusual to ask a judge to consolidate cases from multiple counties.

“It’s kind of a big deal because generally plaintiffs are entitled to pick the venue,” Danko said. “Somebody’s going to be disappointed.”

PG&E spokeswoman Katie Romans said the request was simply an effort to streamline the process.

“Certainly we respect the plaintiffs’ rights to file the lawsuits,” Romans said. “We’ll work with each of those plaintiffs to try to resolve their concerns.”

sbishop@sfexaminer.com

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