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PG&E Sonoma county Lawsuits, News and Updates

Possible PG&E Fire Lawsuits

October 30, 2017
As attorneys based in Santa Rosa California, the very heart of Wine Country, we are deeply and personally aware of the devastation that the recent wildfires have caused. The loss of life and the amount of property damage is staggering. TheLawFirm.com is proud to be representing fire survivors in potential claims against PG&E.

Among the losses and damages include losses to wineries. A host of insurance issues, including whether coverage is available for smoke-tainted grapes and how much wineries can recover for business interruption are on the horizon. These issues are important to Wine Country because wine production is a huge part of the local economy.

Perhaps the most important issue, for wineries whose vineyards did not burn, is threat of smoke damage. Microscopic smoke particles can taint the grapes and make them unfit for wine production. This was not ‘regular’ wildfire smoke, but heavily toxic smoke from burning chemicals, automobiles and the like.

Most grapes for the year by the time the wildfires were sparked in early October were already picked. But some heavier red grapes, such as those used to make cabernet sauvignon, were still on the vine.

Any insurance claim must be backed by evidence. It is recommended therefore that wineries enlist the services of an independent or contracted laboratory to test for chemical evidence of smoke taint before harvesting remaining grapes.

However, even if the remaining grapes are useable, some vines may have sustained smoke damage, which could taint the future production of grapes for years. Aside from grapes on the vine, many northern California wineries had large quantities of wine in production at the time of the fires. Even a small amount of smoke can throw off the composition of the wine in process and render it unusable.

Determining the amount of wine that is ruined, if any, and the value of the wine will be complicated insurance questions.

Much of Wine Country was under mandatory or advisory evacuation orders with significant road closures. It is expected that many wineries were unable to carry on shipping operations or hold tastings and other special events, entitling them to business interruption coverage.

Finally, it is possible that Wine Country has lost some of its appeal for tourists in the short term. The mere perception that northern California wine country is unsafe or the local wine is tainted will have devastating implications for area wineries. Many folks may simply avoid the 2017 vintage in fear of the wine being tainted. The insurance implications of this fire will be far reaching and complicated.

As Sonoma County residents, our hearts and minds go out to all our friends, neighbors and those in the business community who suffered injury, loss or death in this terrible firestorm.

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