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More than 150 insurance companies sue Xcel Energy over Marshall Fire claims

The lawsuit claims Xcel was negligent and is liable for damage because it did not properly maintain its equipment
Marshall Fire
Posted at 3:21 PM, Jul 11, 2023

DENVER — More than 150 insurance companies are suing Xcel Energy, claiming the company’s negligence is to blame for the Marshall Fire and the damages it caused and demanding it pay for the settlements paid out to victims of the fire.

This is the latest in a growing number of lawsuits against Xcel Energy, after the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office released its findings last month into the causes of the Dec. 30 2021 Marshall Fire.

Boulder County Sheriff Curtis Johnson said the investigation found the Marshall Fire started as two separate fires: The first likely sparked by a religious group’s buried fire from a week prior, and the second from a disconnected Xcel Energy power line.

“We also know that the two fires became one at some point,” Sheriff Johnson said during a news conference June 8th. “But, there is no way for us to precisely determine when or where this occurred.”

Xcel Energy said in June it “strongly disagree[d]” with that conclusion, and the Boulder County District Attorney announced no criminal charges would be filed. Lawsuits, however, were quick to come.

At the same time the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office released its investigation findings, attorneys representing 24 Marshall Fire victims announced a mass action lawsuit against Xcel Energy. Attorney Benjamin Petiprin told Denver7 more than a hundred additional victims have joined the suit since then. He predicted “thousands and thousands” of people to sue the company.

“Everyone is upset against Xcel Energy,” Petiprin said. “They're upset that this happened. I think that the report in a lot of ways was cathartic for a lot of the community, because they finally could say ‘Okay, this wasn't just some random thing that happened.’ It wasn't an act of God. There was an actual cause, and the cause is, you know, the people that provide electricity to you.”

Petiprin welcomes this latest lawsuit filed by the many insurance companies, and said its size should bolster the case for his clients.

“It is an encouraging sign to see that all of these insurance companies are filing, and I’ll tell you why: Insurance companies have offices on the ground, everywhere,” Petiprin said. “In my experience in the past, they have access to information that not everyone would have. And so the fact that they’re filing a lawsuit is indicative of the fact that their own independent evidence has shown that there’s liability on behalf of Xcel Energy. If they felt like there was no liability here, they would not be wasting their time.”

Petiprin expects his firm’s mass action lawsuit against Xcel Energy to keep growing in the months ahead, with the statute of limitations on claims of negligence coming in December. This week, his firm is asking a judge to consider consolidating all of the lawsuits related to the Marshall Fire into one courthouse, before one judge. His hope, he said, is that it “forces Xcel to the table” to settle the cases.

“It is really important to show Xcel that … all of the survivors of this fire are going to band together,” he said. “And they’re going to come after them to get what they are deserved, and what they are owed in this case.”

Denver7 reached out to Xcel Energy regarding this new lawsuit filed by insurance companies, and were pointed to the company’s statement from June:

“Our thoughts are with the families and communities impacted by the devastating wildfire in Boulder County. We agree with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office report that the Marshall Fire started as a result of an ignition on a property (5325 Eldorado Springs Drive) previously reported to be affiliated with an entity called the Twelve Tribes, and that this ignition had nothing to do with Xcel Energy’s powerlines. The Sheriff’s report cites multiple potential causes for a second ignition near the Marshall Mesa Trailhead that started roughly an hour after the first fire. We believe the second fire burned into an area already burned by the fire from the first ignition, and did not cause damage to any homes or businesses. We strongly disagree with any suggestion that Xcel Energy’s powerlines caused the second ignition, which according to the report started 80 to 110 feet away from Xcel Energy’s powerlines in an area with underground coal fire activity. Xcel Energy did not have the opportunity to review and comment on the analyses relied on by the Sheriff’s Office and believes those analyses are flawed and their conclusions are incorrect.  We have reviewed our maintenance records and believe the system was properly maintained. We operate and maintain our electric system consistent with leading energy service practices and we’re proud of our employees and the work they do to deliver safe, reliable and clean energy to our communities. As members of the Boulder community, we will continue to support our neighbors in this recovery.
Michelle Aguayo, spokesperson for Xcel Energy


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