The California Court of Appeal Second District has ordered Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) and the Los Angeles County District Attorneys Office to show cause as to why the Aliso Canyon Gas Well Blowout Victims should be deprived of their constitutional rights — putting a spotlight and calling into question a hasty plea deal between the parties that denied criminal restitution to the victims of the single, worst natural gas well blowout in U.S. history.
Under Marsy’s Law, victims of crime in California have a right to be paid for damages before any government agency, but that hasn’t been the case for the thousands of victims affected by the criminal misconduct of SoCalGas. A September 2016 plea agreement between the LADA’s Office and the utility company hobbled the victims ability to seek restitution by allowing SoCalGas to pay a $75,000 fine and enter a no contest plea to one misdemeanor charge of failing to timely report the release of hazardous materials from the Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Facility. The agreement was reached without the victims’ attorneys being present and did not require the utility to make restitution to any person for economic loss, including businesses — a violation of the Victim’s Bill of Rights.
The order issued by the Court of Appeal will allow the voices of the victims to be heard, something they weren’t afforded by SoCalGas or the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office when they struck their plea deal and denied our clients their constitutional right. Thousands of residents suffered the consequence of SoCalGas’ criminal negligence. Restitution for their damages should be the first priority of the People under California law.”
~ Brian Panish, Plaintiffs Co-Lead Trial Counsel
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Attorneys for the victims took the matter up to the California Court of Appeal after the Appellate Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court upheld the plea agreement and accepted SoCalGas and the LADAs Office argument that there was no causal link between SoCalGas criminal conduct and the economic losses and damages suffered by the victims. Plaintiffs Attorneys sought to answer important questions of criminal law, including whether a crime victim has a constitutional right to priority in payment of economic losses “ a request that was also denied by the appellant panel.
“Now, SoCalGas, the LA District Attorney’s Office and the Attorney Generals Office will have to justify why victims must wait to recover their out-of-pocket losses when the State’s constitution says otherwise. If victims are stripped of their constitutional rights, regulatory agencies, city and county attorneys and State Attorney Generals attorneys will get paid before the victims. Does that sound right?”
~ R. Rex Parris, Plaintiffs Steering Committee
The Appellate Court has set a deadline of December 17 by which both SoCalGas and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office must respond to the court order, with attorneys for the victims replying by January 18, after which the Court will set a date to hear oral arguments from all parties and issue a written opinion based on the merits.
“While I know the fight isnt over, this decision gives me hope that the justice system will finally work for the people instead of against them.”
~ Demetrius Crump, victim of SoCalGas criminal misconduct
Demetrius Crump, et al v. Superior Court of the State of California Los Angeles Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, Division Eight Case No. B292786
About Panish Shea & Boyle LLP
Panish Shea & Boyle LLP represents plaintiffs in wrongful death, catastrophic personal injury, product liability, mass torts, and business litigation cases. Firm attorneys serve in leadership roles in some of the largest personal injury cases against utility companies in the state including Southern California Edison (SCE), Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), and Southern California Gas Company, and dedicate themselves to obtaining justice for clients who are dealing with a life-altering injury, death of a family member or other challenges caused by the wrongful act of another. The firm is consistently ranked among the best plaintiff’s law firms in the country, including by U.S. News & World Report, where it’s recognized as a Tier One law firm in the areas of Plaintiffs Personal Injury Litigation, Plaintiffs Product Liability Litigation, and Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions as well as by the National Law Journal which named the firm in its Elite Trial Lawyers list. psblaw.com
About PARRIS Law Firm
PARRIS Law Firm, a Los Angeles County-based business, has devoted the past 33 years to helping families who have been victims of catastrophic injuries as a result of someone elses careless actions. PARRIS Law Firm has secured numerous multi-million dollar victories, including a record-breaking defamation jury verdict in Los Angeles for $370 million, a $135 million wage-and-hour class action settlement, a $57 million verdict for brothers involved in a head-on collision with a big-rig truck, and a $42 million verdict for a man who was severely injured in a horrific T-bone collision. Widely recognized as one of Americas top Personal Injury, Employment, and Environmental law firms, PARRIS Law Firm has the proven track record necessary to help families in need. www.parrislawyers.com