California utility sued by fire victim relatives

OAKLAND, Calif. — Relatives of 18 of the 36 people who died in Oakland’s “Ghost Ship” warehouse fire added California’s Pacific Gas & Electric utility on Tuesday as a defendant in their wrongful death lawsuits. They claimed the company should have known the warehouse’s electrical hookups were hazardous and illegally installed.

Authorities have not disclosed what caused the Dec. 2 fire but have said they are investigating electrical causes. PG&E was added as a defendant to a “master complaint” lawsuit that combined the 18 separate lawsuits into one, lawyers for those relatives said.

PG&E “contributed to this fire and horrible loss of life,” attorney Mary Alexander said. “It’s not about deep pockets, it’s about culpability.”

The company responded in a statement that it had no reports of electrical theft or problems “or any other anomalies from this location or the adjacent premises.”

It added that the utility is cooperating with authorities investigating the fire and “can say that our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims of this tragic event.”

The lawsuits consolidated in Alameda County Superior Court also claimed that the building’s owner, Chor Nar Siu Ng, and the building’s leaseholder, Derick Almena were responsible for the fire and deaths.

Ng’s phone went unanswered Tuesday and Almena did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.