Panish | Shea | Boyle | Ravipudi LLP is proud to announce Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC) has selected PSBR founding partner Brian Panish and attorney Jesse Creed among the finalists for 2022 Consumer Attorney of the Year for their work on the the Southern California Gas Leak Cases resulting from the 2015 SoCal Gas Well Blowout in Porter Ranch, California. The annual top honor is awarded to a CAOC member or members who significantly advanced the rights or safety of California consumers by achieving a noteworthy result in a case.
Mr. Panish served as Plaintiffs’ Lead Trial Counsel where he led a team of lawyers in obtaining a $1.8 billion settlement from Southern California Gas Company and its parent company Sempra Energy in September 2021. In addition to Mr. Panish and Mr. Creed, members of the plaintiffs’ legal team are also named among the Consumer Attorney of the Year finalists for this matter.
As noted in the press release issued by CAOC, on October 23, 2015, the largest natural gas leak in U.S. history and one of the largest environmental disasters in California history occurred at one of the natural gas wells located at Southern California Gas Co. and Sempra Energy’s Aliso Canyon Storage Facility near Porter Ranch. Approximately 100,000 tons of toxic chemicals were released into the atmosphere over 118 days, impacting residents, businesses, and properties in the surrounding communities. The smell of the gas could be picked up for miles, with an oily mist falling on neighborhoods. Noxious fumes spilled into the homes of Porter Ranch, making thousands sick with headaches, nosebleeds, dizziness, respiratory problems, and nausea, and SoCalGas had no plan for what to do in the event of such an emergency. Los Angeles County’s health department ordered SoCalGas to relocate residents within five miles of the facility and relocate public schools in the neighborhood. More than 8,000 families were forced to evacuate their homes and thousands of students their schools. Tens of thousands of residents and students filed lawsuits, alleging personal injuries from exposure and property damage. The attorneys argued that the blowout was the culmination of decades of mismanagement and failure to maintain proper facility maintenance and operational procedures. In addition to their dereliction of their duty to prevent the blowout, SoCalGas also bungled several efforts to stop the leak, thereby causing the impact of the blowout to last for significantly longer and be more severe than necessary. After nearly $6 million in discovery sanctions against the defendants and their counsel for willfully violating discovery orders and withholding over 180,000 documents from plaintiffs, and after 585 days of depositions of 470 witnesses, SoCalGas and Sempra agreed to settle claims of approximately 35,000 residents six years into the litigation in what is believed to be the largest settlement ever for a natural gas release, with SoCalGas promising it would not pass the cost of the settlement on to its customers.
The winners will be revealed at CAOC’s Annual Installation and Awards Dinner on November 19th, to be held in conjunction with CAOC’s 61st Annual Convention at The Palace Hotel in San Francisco, California.