The Supreme Court today agreed to answer the Ninth Circuit’s questions in Gantner v. PG&E Corp. that could lead to liability in federal court for a utility’s shutting off power to prevent wildfires in 2019. Justice Leondra Kruger was recused.

The Gantner class action alleges the shutoffs caused plaintiffs “loss of habitability of their dwellings, loss of food items in their refrigerators, [and] expenses for alternative means of lighting and power.”

The questions are:

(1) Does California Public Utilities Code section 1759 preempt a plaintiff’s claim of negligence brought against a utility if the alleged negligent acts were not approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”), but those acts foreseeably resulted in the utility having to take subsequent action (here, a Public Safety Power Shutoff), pursuant to CPUC guidelines, and that subsequent action caused the plaintiff’s alleged injury?

(2) Does PG&E’s Electric Rule Number 14 shield PG&E from liability for an interruption in its services that PG&E determines is necessary for the safety of the public at large, even if the need for that interruption arises from PG&E’s  own negligence?

More about the case here.

The Supreme Court has now granted 14 of the last 15 Ninth Circuit requests for help in resolving questions of California law, dating back to July 2018.  The lone denial during that time was in October 2019.

Two other requests are pending. (See here and here.)


Rule 8.548

Asked and answered:  California Supreme Court responses to Ninth Circuit questions

The constitutionality of the Supreme Court answering the Ninth Circuit’s legal questions

Ask not what the Supreme Court can do for the Ninth Circuit

Justice Kruger and Judge Owens talk about the Supreme Court answering Ninth Circuit questions