- Judge Dennis Montali wants to pursue "what would have happened if there hadn't been a bankruptcy."
Families of the victims of the Ghost Ship fire will be allowed to continue their civil lawsuit against California power utility PG&E.
The plaintiffs—family members of fire victims—are seeking damages of up to $900 million, the maximum amount due per PG&E's own insurance policies. The status of their case was cast into doubt after PG&E announced a $13.5 billion settlement with victims of last year's wildfires (a separate case), which began bankruptcy proceedings that would have protected the utility from fighting any further lawsuits.
As the SF Chronicle reports, bankruptcy judge Dennis Montali has granted the lawsuit relief from that rule, allowing the victims to pursue their case against the utility. (As a result, the Ghost Ship families will be barred from collecting any of the $13.5 billion payout to the wildfire victims.) The plaintiffs blame the utility for an electrical malfunction they say started the fire, though an exact cause has not been declared by authorities.
The civil trial, which includes other defendants, will go forward on May 26th, 2020. A separate criminal retrial for head tenant Derick Almena begins in March, after a hung verdict in a previous trial resulted in acquittal for another tenant, Max Harris.
Last week, it was announced that CBS would produce a series based on a New York Times Magazine article about the incident, but the idea was shelved due to community reaction a few days later.