Ryan Kavanaugh Sues SoCal Edison Over "Catastrophic" Woolsey Fire

Woolsey Fire-California-Getty-3-H 2018
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November's devastating and deadly Woolsey fire destroyed homes and Hollywood landmarks, and film financier Ryan Kavanaugh says the damage was caused by negligence on the part of Southern California Edison.

In a complaint filed Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Kavanaugh claims SCE failed to maintain its overhead electrical facilities in a safe manner, failed to perform vegetation management per regulations and failed to shut down its Big Rock circuit to prevent wildfire during Red Flag weather conditions.

The Woolsey Fire, which started Nov. 8 after vegetation ignited near power lines, killed three people, burned more than 98,000 acres, destroyed more than 500 structures and damaged almost 100 more.

Kavanaugh says he bought his Malibu home nearly a decade ago for $7.25 million, put an additional $2 million into it and then spent another $1 million in repairs after the fire — but was only able to sell it for $8.1 million. He alleges that it would have appreciated in value "but for the Woolsey Fire" because the neighborhood surrounding the property burned. He also notes that the fire caused serious air quality issues. 

Because its equipment had sparked similar blazes under similar conditions, according to the complaint, Kavanaugh alleges "SCE knew of the catastrophic damage which could occur when its electrical equipment sparked a wildfire in a high risk fire area during Santa Ana wind conditions. Despite this knowledge, SCE failed to take adequate precautions to prevent its equipment from sparking the Woolsey Fire."

Kavanaugh is suing for negligence, inverse condemnation, trespass (the fire wrongfully occupied property), private nuisance, public nuisance, premises liability and violations of public utilities code and health and safety code. He is seeking compensatory damages for the property loss and general damages for emotional distress.

SCE spokesman Robert Laffoon-Villegas tells The Hollywood Reporter the company does not comment on the merits of pending litigation, but did give a statement on the issue. “Our thoughts remain with all those across the state who’ve been affected by these devastating wildfires," he says. "We continue to work to help our customers and community recover and rebuild. The safety of our communities is paramount and we are taking measures to protect them from wildfire by strengthening our system using cutting edge technology and turning off power to some areas when fire conditions warrant."

Oct.18, 9:40 a.m. Updated with a statement from Southern California Edison.