A Santa Barbara judge has declined a request to compel Frontier Communications to turn over documents under court order in a lawsuit over the Rey Fire.
In early March Judge Thomas Anderle ordered Southern California Edison to produce a number of documents, including those it shared with the California Public Utilities Commission, on the cause of the 2016 Rey Fire.
In a tentative ruling released last week, Judge Anderle declined to order Frontier Communications to make further responses to a previously granted motion to produce documents. He is expected to affirm his decision at a hearing on Tuesday.
The Rey Fire broke out Aug. 18, 2016 in the White Rock day-use campground near a power line and burned 32,606 acres in the Los Padres National Forest. It was fully contained on Sept. 16, 2016.
At least five outbuildings at Ogilvy Ranch were damaged by the blaze, which also spread into the watershed of the Gibraltar Reservoir.
U.S. Forest Service officials estimated the cost to battle the blaze at $26.7 million.
In December 2017 plaintiffs Daniel and Janell Brucker, owners of Ogilvy Ranch, sued Edison for damage to property and access roads. Their attorney, Brian Heffernan, says that since the Rey Fire, his clients have had to either hike or fly into the property due to the road damage.
The lawsuit claims that the fire was ignited when a large oak tree fell against electrical power lines, which slapped together and fell to the ground, starting a brush fire. Frontier owns the communication facilities attached to the Edison power lines.
The plaintiffs claim Frontier has failed to provide any documents in response to the motion to compel. They asked the judge to make another order compelling the production of documents that Frontier claimed were forthcoming in the written responses.
Judge Anderle decided the plaintiff’s motion was improper because it did not include a declaration that the parties attempted to resolve the issue informally and it was not filed as a separate statement as required by the California Code of Civil Procedure.
“The substance of the motion appears to be seeking an order compelling Frontier to comply with its response to the request for production, set one,” wrote Judge Anderle, who noted that request could have been achieved with a different motion to compel compliance.
He continued that Frontier claims the plaintiffs’ motion seeks the production of materials that are already forthcoming.
“The Court understands plaintiffs’ frustration with the pace of discovery. The Court anticipates that the parties will cooperate and get discovery completed. If not, the Court will hear the motions to compel. However, the parties must follow the required procedures,” wrote Judge Anderle.
Trial is set for June 25 with a pretrial conference June 7.