Neutrals create streamlined process for resolving natural disaster cases

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Originally published in the Daily Journal on March 15, 2013.

With more than 2,000 lawsuits filed by homeowners in the wake of the fires that ravaged San Diego County in 2007, attorneys for plaintiffs and San Diego Gas & Electric - whose power lines were blamed for starting some of the blazes - were concerned with how best to deal with such a large group of often disparate cases. The lead attorney for the public utility, Kenneith R. Chiate of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, said it was one of the largest cases he's worked on and he knew that if a class action was filed it could take a decade or more for the litigation to wrap up - not an ideal option for his client and, the thought, for the plaintiffs either.

"All the plaintiffs had more or less legitimate damage claims and suffered legitimate losses that needed to be addressed, "he said. "But we felt attaining the best and most just outcomes would come from mediation as opposed to class actions, which would have been a long and cumbersome process."

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