Pacific Gas & Electric Co. could have prevented the death of 20-year-old Jessica Morales, one of eight people who died in the inferno from the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the woman’s parents.
The wrongful-death lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for negligence and “ultrahazardous activity” by PG&E. The lawsuit points to “a long list of PG&E incidents and safety lapses,” and criticizes the utility for its “sluggish” response to the Sept. 9 incident.
“PG&E had knowledge of this pipeline’s defective condition but put profits ahead of public safety,” attorney John Feder said in a statement. “No one should have lost loved ones or suffered injuries or damage to their homes.”
The lawsuit claims that the pipeline was overpressurized at the time of the explosion and that PG&E failed to maintain or properly inspect the pipe or install automatic or remote shutoff valves.
On the night of the explosion, Morales was visiting her boyfriend, Joseph Ruigomez, at 1701 Earl Ave. to watch a football game when the 30-inch natural gas pipeline exploded at about 6:15 p.m. on Sept. 9 and flames rushed into the house.
Terrified, she “ran for her life towards the back yard and then in a panic to 1711 Earl Avenue,” but was unable to escape the flames, according to the lawsuit. Ruigomez was was severely burned while trying to rescue her.
After her parents searched for her throughout the night, the burned body of Morales, who had been working part-time at a local ice cream shop and attended art classes, was found at 5:50 a.m. the next morning in a neighbor’s shed, according to attorneys for Rene and Israel Morales. PG&E spokesman Denny Boyles declined to comment directly on the lawsuit.
“Obviously, our hearts go out to the family and we respect their right to file a lawsuit,” Boyles said. “We will work with them to address their concerns.”
The Morales family is the latest of more than 50 families to sue the utility after the disaster, which injured at least 50 and destroyed 38 homes.