A Ventura County judge has recommended to the Judicial Council that Los Angeles County Superior Court serve as the venue for pretrial coordination proceedings in cases pertaining to the Thomas Fire and Montecito mudslide/debris flow disasters against Southern California Edison. The order was issued on Monday, April 16 by Vincent J. O’Neill Jr., Coordination Motion Judge of the Ventura County Superior Court, and designates the Court of Appeal, Second District as the reviewing court.
The Ventura County court determined Thomas Fire and Montecito debris flow cases are complex due to the sheer number of existing complaints filed as well as the amount of witnesses and discovery evidence included with each action. As noted by Judge O’Neill in his recommendation, “exceptional judicial management will be necessary to handle the included actions to avoid placing unnecessary burden on the court, to reduce litigation costs, and to expedite the cases.” Coordination of the cases in a single courthouse before a single judge promotes efficient use of judicial resources, streamlined litigation procedures, and, importantly, eliminates the opportunity for inconsistent rulings and orders on the same legal issues.
The court weighed eight factors when ruling in favor of Los Angeles County as the site for pretrial coordination including the convenience of the location to the parties, witnesses and counsel, the parties principal place of business, the ease of travel and availability of accommodations, and the efficient use of court facilities and judicial resources. The court also noted that while attorneys for the parties have offices in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, as well as other counties in California, it was not a factor that weighed in favor of or against a particular venue.