Victims of San Bruno explosion will have to wait for decision on lawsuit trial 

A San Mateo County Superior Court judge on Thursday decided to postpone a decision on how a lawsuit filed by victims of the pipeline explosion in San Bruno should proceed against PG&E.

The lawsuit involves 92 cases and 323 plaintiffs who are suing PG&E for the Sept. 9 explosion on one of its natural gas transmission lines in the Crestmoor neighborhood. The disaster killed eight people, injured dozens more and ravaged an entire neighborhood.

After hearing arguments from attorneys for PG&E and those representing the plaintiffs, Judge Steven Dylina said he would determine what trial structure would best suit “the unique aspects of the case” and set a trial date at a case management conference Sept. 22.

Burlingame lawyer Frank Pitre, who represented attorneys for all of the plaintiffs at Thursday’s proceedings, argued for a trial structure that would address liability and damages collectively by presenting select cases that best represent the entire group’s claims.

A bellwether trial would divide the claims into categories, such as physical injury, property damage and emotional distress. A selection of the 92 claims that best represented each category would be tried together, and the results of the trial would be applied to all cases.

PG&E attorney Gayle Gough said the representative nature of a bellwether structure would exclude most claimants from the trial process. Gough argued that consolidating all of the cases into one liability trial, followed by a mediation phase between the utility and each claimant to determine a cash settlement, would suit the unique needs of each case.

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