Fire Victim Trust

Frequently Asked Questions


Basic Information


1. What is the Fire Victim Trust?

Following the Northern California wildfires in 2015 to 2018, PG&E Corporation and Pacific Gas and Electric Company jointly filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California (the “Court”) on January 29, 2019 (In re PG&E Corporation and Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Bankruptcy Case No. 19-30088). The Debtors’ Plan of Reorganization under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code was confirmed by the Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California on June 20, 2020, Case No. 19-30088, Docket No. 8053 (available here). The Plan became effective and the Fire Victim Trust was formed on July 1, 2020.

 

The Fire Victim Trust evaluates, administers, processes and resolves eligible Claims arising from the 2015 Butte Fire, 2017 North Bay Fires, and 2018 Camp Fire. Under the direction of the Trustee, Cathy Yanni, and Claims Administrator, David Agretelis, the Fire Victim Trust provides an efficient and equitable process to review claims and compensate Fire Victims for both economic and non-economic damages caused by these Fires, including destruction or damage to real estate and personal property, additional living expenses, lost wages, business losses, personal injury or death and related medical expenses, and emotional distress.


2. What fires are included in the Fire Victim Trust?

The Fire Victim Trust will administer Claims related to the following fires (the “Included Fires” or “Fires”):

 

(a) Butte Fire (2015)

 

(b) North Bay Wildfires (2017)

 

  1. 37
  2. Adobe
  3. Atlas
  4. Blue
  5. Cascade
  6. Cherokee
  7. Honey
  8. LaPorte
  9. Lobo
  10. Maacama/Youngs
  11. McCourtney
  12. Norrbom
  13. Nuns
  14. Partrick
  15. Pocket
  16. Point
  17. Pressley
  18. Pythian/Oakmont
  19. Redwood/Potter Valley
  20. Sullivan
  21. Sulphur
  22. Tubbs

 

(c) Camp Fire (2018)

 

Any Claims unrelated to the Included Fires are ineligible for compensation from the Trust.


3. Who can submit a claim to the Fire Victim Trust?

To be eligible to receive compensation from the Trust, a Claimant must: (1) have a Claim related to an Included Fire; (2) have timely filed a Proof of Claim (i.e., have filed a Proof of Claim with the Bankruptcy Court by December 31, 2019); and (3) submit supporting documentation outlined in Section II of the Claims Resolution Procedures or as required by the Claims Administrator (“Supporting Documents”). Upon submission of the Supporting Documents, the Trust will review each Claim and apply California law or, if applicable, other non-bankruptcy law to determine the Approved Amount of the Claim, including all recoverable damages and costs.


4. Who is the Trustee?

Cathy Yanni became Trustee of the Fire Victim Trust effective July 1, 2022. In her previous role as Claims Administrator, Yanni assisted the former Trustee, the Honorable John K. Trotter (ret.), in Trust oversight, and she directly oversaw all Fire Victim claims resolution, including design and implementation of the claims resolution process, from establishing eligibility requirements and claims review procedures to ensuring that funds are distributed in a fair and equitable manner. Yanni also served PG&E Fire Victims as the Administrator of the Wildfire Assistance Program. Previous to her work on behalf of PG&E Fire Victims, Yanni settled tens of thousands of cases, facilitated distribution of billions of dollars in settlement funds to Claimants, and oversaw multiple claims reconciliation processes. She has been a Court Appointed Special Master and/or Mediator in numerous cases involving wildfires, mass torts, and class actions. In addition to being appointed as an appeal panelist in the Takata Airbag Tort Compensation Trust Fund established in the TK Holdings Inc. bankruptcy case, she has been appointed as an Administrator, Special Master, or Mediator in thousands of other cases. She also worked with Justice Trotter to formulate a resolution program for the 2007 San Diego fire cases, ultimately acting as mediator and arbitrator for the program. Click here to learn more about Cathy Yanni.


5. Who is the Claims Administrator?

In his role as Claims Administrator, David Agretelis oversees all Fire Victim claims resolution and ensures that funds are distributed in a fair and equitable manner. He also was instrumental in designing and implementing the Fire Victim Trust’s claims resolution process and eligibility requirements and served Fire Victims as the Assistant Administrator of the Wildfire Assistance Program. Previous to his work on behalf of Fire Victims, Agretelis worked on numerous nationwide mass tort and inventory settlements. His work on those programs included claims administration, settlement fund allocation methodology and implementation, and database design and management. Agretelis also previously worked as consultant for a national lien resolution firm, and he has played an instrumental role in negotiating and overseeing the Fire Victim Trust’s medical lien resolution program.


6. Who are the Neutrals?

The Trustee will appoint a panel of Neutrals experienced in the resolution of wildfire claims and related matters to assist in resolving issues relating to the liquidation and resolution settlement of Fire Victim Claims. The Trustee will designate certain specially-qualified Neutrals to consider large, complex, and/or sensitive Fire Victim Claims. The Neutrals also will consider appeals from Claimants who dispute their Claims Determinations.


7. Who is the Special Master?

The Court approved the Honorable Ellen Sickles James (Ret.) as the Special Master to review and approve any and all claims submitted to the Fire Victim Trust on behalf of "Protected Persons," referring to minors and incapacitated adults. Having retired from the California Superior Court in 1997, she joined JAMS and became known for her exceptional settlement skills, earning the reputation of having a dedicated, compassionate and creative command. As a Superior Court Judge and in prior Special Master assignments, she presided over scores of litigation matters involving claims asserted on behalf of minors. Special Master James is fully familiar with state law requirements and practice regarding review of minors' settlements, restrictions on the payment of attorneys' fees, costs and expenses from the proceeds of litigation involving minors and the handling of funds belonging to minors. Special Master James' fifty years of legal experience, including her career as a California Superior Court judge and subsequent career as a mediator, arbitrator Judge Pro-Tem and Special Master have made her well-qualified to resolve issues that arise in litigation involving minors and persons with disabilities. Click here to learn more about Special Master James' appointment.


8. Who is the Claims Processor?

The Fire Victim Trust retained the law firm BrownGreer PLC as Claims Processor to assist the Trustee and the Claims Administrator to process Fire Victim Claims in a fair, consistent, equitable and pro rata manner as mandated by the Fire Victim Trust Agreement and the order of the Bankruptcy Court. BrownGreer is a premier settlement administrator with more than 25 years' experience assisting clients with the legal and administrative aspects of the design, approval, and implementation of settlement protocols and claims facilities required to resolve mass claims in settlements arising from class actions, multidistrict litigation, bankruptcy proceedings, government enforcement actions, and other aggregation vehicles.


9. What is the Trust Oversight Committee?

The Trust Oversight Committee ("TOC") is an oversight committee selected and appointed by the Consenting Fire Claimant Professionals and the Tort Claimants Committee to oversee the Fire Victim Trust and represent the interests of Fire Victim Claimants. The TOC members are:

 

  • Amy Bach, Esq. | United Policyholders
  • Douglas Boxer, Esq. | Law Office of Douglas Boxer
  • Elizabeth Cabraser, Esq. | Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP
  • Michael Kelly, Esq. | Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger
  • Frank M. Pitre, Esq. | Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP
  • Amanda L. Riddle, Esq. | Corey, Luzaich, de Ghetaldi & Riddle LLP
  • Bill Robins, Esq. | Robins Cloud LLP
  • Gerald Singleton, Esq. | Singleton Law Firm
  • Steven J. Skikos, Esq. | Skikos, Crawford, Skikos & Joseph, LLP


10. When does the Claim filing period begin?

The Trust began accepting Claims information and supporting documents on the Fire Victim Trust Portal on July 1, 2020. The Claims Questionnaire has been available on the Portal since August 17, 2020.


11. If I did not file a Proof of Claim by December 31, 2019, can I still get compensation from the Trust?

All Claimants must have filed a Proof of Claim for their claims or those of their family in the Bankruptcy Cases (i.e., the cases filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California known as In re PG&E Corporation et al, Debtors, Jointly Administered Case No. 19-30088) on or before December 31, 2019, which was the extended Bar Date for Fire Victim Claimants. Claims that were not timely submitted to the Bankruptcy Cases are ineligible for compensation from the Trust, unless the Claimant (a) obtains relief from the Bankruptcy Court to file a late Claim, and (b) within 30 days after the Bankruptcy Court order allowing such late filing (i) files the Claim in the Chapter 11 Cases and (ii) submits such Claim to the Trust. The Trust has the right to object to Proofs of Claim filed after the extended Bar Date and, even if the Court deems a Proof of Claim timely, the Trust may ultimately deny the related claims in its application of the Claims Resolution Procedures and Eligibility Criteria. Additionally, Proof of Claims that have been disallowed or that have been withdrawn from the Claims Register in the Chapter 11 Cases are ineligible for compensation from the Trust.


12. If I filed a Proof of Claim and need to make corrections, should I file a new or amended Proof of Claim?

If you previously filed or were included as a family member in a filed Proof of Claim, you do not need to file a new or amended Proof of Claim to update the information about your claim. Instead, you or your lawyer should contact the Trust to submit revised information, including changes in contact information and/or attorney representation. If you need to revise or clarify substantive claims information including the Fire, loss location address, and/or damages claimed, you will have an opportunity to do so when submitting your Claims Questionnaire to the Trust.


13. If I filed a Proof of Claim, how do I add or substitute a Claimant?

To preserve Trust resources and efficiently assist Fire Victims to add or substitute a Claimant, the Claims Administrator established a Procedure to avoid the filing of certain new or amended Proofs of Claim or motion practice. To request the addition or substitution of a Claimant, complete the Add or Substitute Claimant Form available here and email the completed form to info@firevictimtrust.com. The Claims Processor will seek approval and inform you of the final determination. If the Claims Administrator approves your request, the new Claimant will relate back to the original Proof of Claim filing.

 

Examples of permissible additions and substitutions may include:

 

  • Adding a family or household member who was not listed on the original Proof of Claim. For example, you are a parent adding a minor child.
  •  

  • Substituting a Claimant because a beneficiary was named on the Proof of Claim rather than the owner. For example, you are adding a trust to replace a trust beneficiary named on the Proof of Claim.
  •  

  • Adding a new Claimant based on a permissible transfer of claim.

If the Claims Administrator denies your request, the new Claimant will be ineligible for compensation from the Trust, unless the Claimant (a) obtains relief from the Bankruptcy Court to file a late Claim, and (b) within 30 days after the Bankruptcy Court order allowing such late filing (i) files the Claim in the Chapter 11 Cases and (ii) submits such Claim to the Trust. The Trust has the right to object to Proofs of Claim filed after the extended Bar Date and, even if the Court deems a Proof of Claim timely, the Trust may ultimately deny the related claims in its application of the Claims Resolution Procedures and Eligibility Criteria.


14. Are there any tools on the Trust Website to help me understand the Claims Resolution Procedures and how to make a claim?

The Claims Administrator created several tools with information that may be helpful to you. Some of these tools are also referenced in other FAQs. There also are a Portal User Manual and a Quick Start Guide available in the Support section when you log into your Portal.


15. How do I get more information about the Fire Victim Trust?

Yes. These FAQs summarize the Fire Victim Trust Agreement and Claims Resolution Procedures. Click here to read the entire Trust Agreement and all Exhibits. You also may call (1-888-664-1152) or email (info@firevictimtrust.com) the Claims Administrator for more information.


16. How can I get general information and program statistics?

The Trust publishes updated program statistics on its public website twice monthly. Since beginning her role as Trustee, Cathy Yanni has consistently pledged to regularly inform Fire Victims about progress. In addition to general statistics, she has posted letters, statements, and videos on the FVT website each month. Please visit www.firevictimtrust.com for more information.


17. How can I get information about my claims?

If you are an unrepresented Claimant, you must log into your secure Portal (here) to submit a Claims Questionnaire and supporting documents and receive updates about your claims, including Deficiency and Determination Notices. The Portal also includes Eligibility Criteria and other information to assist you.


If you are represented by a lawyer, your lawyer will use their law firm Portal to submit your Claims Questionnaire and supporting documents and receive updates about your claims, including Deficiency and Determination Notices and will communicate these updates to you. You will not have a separate Portal for claims management and will need to discuss your claims status with your lawyer.


18. What are the Fire Victims Trust's disclosure obligations?

Pursuant to order of the Bankruptcy Court, the Fire Victim Trust must file with the Bankruptcy Court an Annual Report containing its financial statements which must be audited by an independent accounting firm. The Fire Victim Trust has retained an independent accounting firm for this purpose. In addition, the Fire Victim Trust must file with the Bankruptcy Court a Claims Report containing a summary of the number and types of claims disposed of during the period covered by the financial statements. These reports must be filed within 120 days after the close of the year. The Annual Report and the Claims Report will be posted on the Fire Victim Trust website when filed with the Bankruptcy Court.


19. What is the Trust’s policy on the production of Claims Information in response to a subpoena or other legal process?

The Claims Processor is responsible for responding to any Legal Process addressed to the Trust. The Claims Processor will provide notice to the subject Claimant that the Trust received Legal Process. The Claimant will be allowed seven days from the date of the notice to object to the Legal Process or such shorter time as may be necessary for the Trust to comply with it, which shall be specified in the notice. If the Claimant objects to production of the information, the Claimant must send an objection to the Trust at the address and in the method specified in the notice and shall include a copy of the action filed with the issuing court to oppose the Legal Process. If the Claimant does not timely object to the Legal Process, the Trust will produce the requested Claims Information.


20. How do I report potential fraud to the Claims Administrator?

If you suspect or know of potential fraud concerning the Fire Victim Trust, you can report it by clicking here and using the online form created by the Claims Administrator. You also may call (1-888-664-1152) or email (info@firevictimtrust.com) to report potential fraud.

 

You can report the potentially fraudulent activity anonymously and confidentially, regardless of the method you choose. If you provide the Claims Administrator with your contact information, the Claims Administrator will keep your information confidential to the extent possible.

 

When reporting potential fraud, include as many details as possible so the Claims Administrator can fully investigate the activity, such as when the activity occurred, who was involved, how you know about the activity, and whether any other person(s) may have information about the activity.


21. What if my situation or circumstances are not covered by these FAQs?

If an issue arises that these FAQs do not address, the Claims Administrator will consider the facts on a case-by-case basis to determine the appropriate course of action, including whether to adopt a new FAQ to address the issue. Not every question can be anticipated in advance. Also, the Trustee and Claims Administrator have the discretion to interpret and apply the rules and policies in these FAQs to follow best practices for the Trust, which may require flexibility in certain situations. Contact the Claims Administrator by phone (1-888-664-1152) or email (info@firevictimtrust.com) if you have a question that is not covered in these FAQs.


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