Local News

Tuesday, Aug 06 2013 10:46 AM

'First Look': Attorney discusses liability with PG&E plant implosion injuries

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    Attorney David Cohn talks with Californian President and CEO Richard Beene about liability issues after the PG&E plant implosion on Saturday resulted in injuries. Cohn appeared on "First Look with Scott Cox."

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    By Autumn Parry / The Californian

    An explosion knocks down one of the remaining towers at the old Kern Power Plant at Coffee Road and Rosedale Highway in August. The demolition of the plant, which has been closed since 1995 after operating for about 37 years, was part of Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s plan to sell the site for redevelopment.

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    By Autumn Parry / The Californian

    A demolished power plant lies in smoke where the old Kern Power Plant used to stand after PG&E imploded the two remaining towers at Coffee Road and Rosedale Highway early Aug. 3, 2013.

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    By Louis Amestoy/ The Californian

    A Kern County firefighter washes away blood near where at least one person was critically injured by shrapnel from the implosion of PG&E's power plant along Rosedale Highway. The victim was standing just north of Jet Way and east of Coffee Road.

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    By Louis Amestoy/ The Californian

    A Kern County firefighter picks up articles of clothing and other items where at least one person was critically injured by shrapnel from the implosion of PG&E's power plant along Rosedale Highway on Aug. 3, 2013. The victim was standing just north of Jet Way and east of Coffee Road.

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By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN

Local plaintiffs attorney David Cohn said anyone dealing with explosives is engaging in an ultra-hazardous activity, and is thus legally held to the highest standard of care.

The principal partner at Chain, Cohn Stiles said people concerned about liability will examine whether businesses involved in Saturday's implosion of the old Kern Power Plant, which led to injuries, met those standards.

Cohn believes they did not live up to those standards, he said Tuesday during an in-studio appearance on "First Look with Scott Cox."

"You don't have to be a brain surgeon" to realize something went wrong, Californian President and CEO Richard Beene said while interviewing Cohn.

The planned implosion sent shrapnel flying; five people were injured, one critically.

"Clearly the people involved did not live up to those highest safety standards," said Cohn, who then read from a doctrine on ultra-hazardous activity.

For its part, a PG&E spokesman said on "First Look" on Monday that PG&E is focusing "our thoughts and prayers" on the injured.

Denny Boyles said, "We are deeply saddened this happened."

Both Cohn and Beene said there's nothing new about imploding structures.

Beene asked whether it will matter in a court of law that the public was asked to stay away Saturday morning. Cohn noted a perimeter for what was supposed to be safe was established. The people who were hurt were beyond it.

Beene asked where liability falls. Cohn explained that liability really means who is at fault. Cohn said he believes PG&E and all subcontractors on the project would have liability, and maybe the city of Bakersfield, too, in terms of any permits that might have been signed off for the work.

"There are no ifs, ands and buts" when it comes to protecting the public, Cohn said. He said the spectators weren't trespassing, and were not violating any laws.

Cohn argued that the businesses that were involved in the implosion are the experts and decided the safe zone. The attorney argued that it is a disingenuous position to say people were told to stay away from the implosion.

"They had to have known people were going to show up to watch this," Beene said.

Both also wondered what, if anything, had been done to contain debris as the towers fell. And they questioned whether asbestos was present.

The attorney also said people will look at the track records of anyone involved in the demolition.

 

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