Porter Ranch residents sue after LA Attorney drop charges for massive natural gas leak

SoCal gas blowout in Porter Ranch community, Los Angeles, California

“Recent air quality reports document that we’re still being poisoned.”

Southern California Gas Company (SoCal), the company responsible for a  blowout at a natural gas well that gushed uncontrollably for 16 weeks and drove thousands of residents from their Los Angeles homes is being sued by the residents and businesses, according to a press release by PARRIS Law Firm.

On Oct. 23, 2015, Southern California Gas Company failed to warn people in Porter Ranch and adjacent communities that they were being exposed to the worst methane gas blowout in American history, according to the lawsuit.

“Make no mistake, Southern California Gas should pay restitution to the victims of this crime,” said PARRIS Law Firm attorney R. Rex Parris.

The leak at the largest underground gas storage reservoir in the West was declared an emergency by the governor. At its peak, the leak was estimated to contribute about a quarter of the state’s climate-altering methane emissions, leading some to call it the worst environmental disaster since the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office filed misdemeanor criminal charges against Southern California Gas Company for this crime and then allowed them to plead no contest to one of the charges, with dismissal of the other charges.

On Nov. 29, 2016, the sentencing court denied the victims’ request for restitution and thus stripped away the rights to restitution of more than 7,500 victims of the massive gas blowout as guaranteed by the California Constitution.

“When the court handed down its ruling, the court misinterpreted the law. That is why Parris Law sought assistance from former appellate court justice, Margaret Grignon, to appeal that decision,” said former District Attorney Steve Cooley.

Article I, section 28, of the California Constitution, states that “all persons who suffer losses as a result of criminal activity shall have the right to seek and secure restitution from the persons convicted of the crimes causing the losses they suffer.”

“It would be unjust and unfair if the victims’ rights were ignored simply because perceived complexity and difficulty of securing restitution for thousands of victims of this mass crime,” added Panish Shea & Boyle attorney Brian Panish.

On Jan. 25, 2018, the appellate panel for the Los Angeles Superior Court will hear the Victim’s request for restitution stemming from the three days Southern California Gas Company failed to report the gas well blowout.

“So many victims lost their health, ability to work, and income. Recent air quality reports document that we’re still being poisoned,” said Matt Pakucko with Save Porter Ranch.

Demetrius Crump, one of the lead plaintiffs on the Restitution Appeal, knows firsthand the impact of the poisonous gases.

“Shortly before the blowout, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal cancer and my treatment made me very sensitive to the gases. During those three days, my health went downhill fast,” said Crump.

The lead attorneys on the appeal are former appellate court justice Margaret Grignon and a former deputy district attorney, Brentford Ferreira.  The restitution appeal hearing presents the question as to whether victims of mass crimes will obtain restitution for the victims as assured by the California Constitution.

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