REDWOOD CITY -- Two families that lost a total of five loved ones in the San Bruno pipeline explosion have settled their lawsuits with PG&E for an undisclosed sum, attorneys said.
During a hearing Thursday in San Mateo County Superior Court, Judge Steven Dylina congratulated the attorneys for reaching an agreement on the Bullis and Greig cases and pushed for more negotiated deals.
"It is the court's desire that there is nothing remaining to go trial on October 9," said Dylina, referring to the start date of the civil trial.
The terms of the deals are confidential and both sides declined to comment on specifics. But Pacific Gas & Electric has said it expects to spend more than $200 million to settle the suits filed in the wake of the Sept. 9, 2010, explosion. The blast killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.
Attorneys have hammered out agreements in about 50 cases. More than 400 suits have been filed by survivors who suffered emotional trauma and the loss of relatives during the blast. Court mandated settlement conferences are ongoing.
Attorney Frank Pitre, whose firm represents about 50 cases, including the Bullis', said he's settled about six cases.
"I think my clients were pleased with the result, and now I just hope that they can move on," he said outside court.
Closure will be tough for the families. Lavonne, 85, Greg, 50, and William Bullis, 17 -- three generations of the family -- died in the
Jacqueline, 44, and Janessa Greig, 13, didn't survive the fire either. They were home while two other members of the family attended a school tennis match, attorneys said.
Settling all the cases before the trial seems unlikely, but Dylina broached the idea of some kind of mass settlement. It wasn't clear whether it would include all plaintiffs or just certain groups. The idea met some resistance from attorneys who noted they were already swamped by preparation for the trial, which is expected to include testimony from 1,000 witnesses.
Victims had to undergo mental and physical exams as part of the process of settling the suits to determine whether they had pre-existing medical or mental health issues.
Jerry Guernsey, who lost his home in the flames and had to run for his life, said the exams have been exhausting and humiliating due to their intensely personal nature.
"I think they are making us see psychiatrists so they can belittle us," he said standing outside court. "There needs to be some of us in there. It's not all about (PG&E's) money."
For its part, the utility says it has settled a number of cases and wants to conclude more.
"Our goal continues to be working to resolve these matters as quickly and fairly as possible for both sides," said company spokeswoman Brittany Chord.
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.