The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the judge overseeing the PG&E trial proceedings has tentatively ruled that survivors of the San Bruno fire will be able to seek punitive damages against the utility.
San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Steven Dylina announced the tentative ruling on Monday, according to attorneys involved in the trial, the Chronicle reported.
The Chronicle further explained what allowing punitive damages means for the trial, which now involves more than 350 lawsuits filed by residents who were affected by the 2010 pipeline explosion in the Crestmoor neighborhood:
To ask for punitive damages, the explosion victims must show that PG&E was malicious—that the utility intentionally injured them by carrying out "despicable conduct" with a willful or conscious disregard for their safety.
On Monday, in an argument that offered a preview of the potential trial ahead, PG&E attorney John Lyons said the evidence instead pointed to a tragic "mix-up." He said the 30-inch transmission pipe that ruptured was installed in the mid-1950s with a defective weld, but said there's no evidence anyone at the company—which did not manufacture the pipe—had known of the problem.
According to media reports, Dylina is expected to make a final decision today after hearing arguments from attorneys on both sides.