Electric Utility-Caused Wildfire Damages: Strict Liability Under Article I, Section 19 of the California Constitution
Volume 92, No. 3, Spring 2020
By Jeremy Gradwohl [PDF]

The California wildfire crisis raises the tough question of how the burdens of providing electrical service throughout the state—and particularly to the most wildfire-vulnerable areas of the WUI—should be fairly allocated between property owners, utilities, and ratepayers. This Comment argues that Assembly Bill 1054 optimally distributes the state’s wildfire risk. Section II traces the history and development of article I, section 19 of the California Constitution. Section II further explores the strict liability standard that California courts have adopted for inverse condemnation claims. Section III describes the California wildfire liability crisis and the application of strict liability to electric utility-caused wildfire damages. Section IV asserts that Assembly Bill 1054 struck an appropriate balance by retaining the strict liability standard and optimally allocating the burden of electrical service to the WUI .

Jeremy Gradwohl is a J.D. Candidate, Temple University Beasley School of Law, 2021.