Wildfire Litigation and Recovery with Ed Diab

Wildfires are causing more destruction in North America than at any time in recorded history.  In 2010 they consumed 3.4 million acres, but nearly tripled to devour more than 10 million acres in 2020.

They also have been responsible for numerous injuries and loss of life, razing thousands of homes, displacing wildlife, destroying natural resources, and even spewing air pollution thousands of miles away. Fighting these hellish infernos is a massive, all-out-war-like undertaking. The 2020 Dixie Fire was finally brought under control with the help of 6,500 personnel (from firefighters to the people who fed them), 1,000 fire trucks, water tankers, and bulldozers, and 1,000 miles of firehose. While some fires occur naturally, set off by lightening, for example, 84% are caused by humans. And, no matter how you slice it, humans are helping create the conditions of this continental tinderbox. 

One group of attorneys from Baron & Budd and Dixon Diab & Chambers LLP is securing and seeking recovery for individuals, municipalities, and insurance companies that pay claims, when they can accomplish the difficult task of identifying the responsible parties. Positioned as “Wildfire Recovery Attorneys,” they have done so in cases against Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. and Southern California Edison, which they have sued for allegedly failing to maintain power lines and the areas beneath them, among other things.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ed Diab, co-founder of Dixon Diab & Chambers in San Diego, about his firm’s role in the litigation, what the claims are, what defenses they encounter, settlements they have secured, what evidentiary hurdles plaintiffs face, and  more.  They’ve been successful. Since 2018, Dixon Diab & Chambers has recovered more $1.4 billion in settlements. And there is more to come. The firm represents more than 40 public entities – including some of the largest cities and counties in California – as well as thousands of individuals and families. Ed leads the firm’s mass tort practice which, in addition to wildfire litigation, represents people who allege injuries from defective drugs and medical devices.

This podcast is the audio companion to the Journal on Emerging Issues in Litigation, a collaborative project between HB Litigation Conferences and the legal news folks at Law Street Media, and the Fastcase legal research family, which includes Docket Alarm and Judicata. If you have comments or wish to participate in one our projects, or want to tell me how insightful our guests are, please drop me a note at Editor@LitigationConferences.com.

Thanks to Ed Diab for speaking with me about this fascinating and frightening subject, and to Baron & Budd’s Scott Summy for introducing us.  For my part, I am sure my suggestion that they install smoke detectors all over the forest is complete nonsense.  Also, I spoke with a friend who majored in Latin. Even though I showed zero confidence, I apparently stumbled close to the pronunciation of flammagenitus, Latin for “fire cloud.” I promised you a photo of one. Also called pyrocumulus clouds, they look as terrifying as they sound.