REDWOOD CITY -- A lawyer representing 50 survivors of the deadly San Bruno pipe blast has pulled out of settlement negotiations, which raises the possibility of a civil trial for PG&E.
Attorneys have been working with mediators since early this year to work out an overall settlement that would prevent a trial on the suits filed by over 300 people. More than 100 other people had already agreed to confidential settlements before the start of the talks.
But on Aug. 16 plaintiff's attorney Mike Danko pulled out of the talks for reasons he declined to state.
"We have advised the mediator we have opted out of the global settlement process and are ready to proceed to trial," Danko said. Both sides are due back in court Sept. 12.
It was unclear if other survivors have withdrawn from the process, which started after San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Steven Dylina ruled that jurors could consider whether to hit Pacific Gas & Electric with millions of dollars in punitive damage penalties.
PG&E declined to say how many claims remain unsettled and said the settlement talks are continuing.
"PG&E is actively involved in settlement negotiations but the details are confidential," utility spokeswoman Brittany Chord said. "We remain committed to this process."
The cases stem from the Sept. 9, 2010 rupture of a PG&E pipe that ran under a San Bruno neighborhood, killing eight people and destroying 38 homes. The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigated the blast, blamed the utility for the explosion, citing various problems including shoddy record keeping.
PG&E has accepted legal responsibility for the explosion but maintains in court papers that it was an accident. The survivors have argued the company put profits over safety and ignored warning signs the blast was coming.
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.