While lawyers tap dance in the background, thinking about the hundreds of thousands of billable hours they are racking up, things at PG&E, which is left dealing with billions worth of damaged goods claims one at a time, are not as optimistic.
Among the latest "suspicious" claims the company has come across while sifting through the dragnet of victims is one man who says the company's Camp Fire wildfire destroyed his 500 pound emerald, worth $280 million.
In addition to seeking a claim for the emerald, the man and his wife have submitted four duplicate claims for $4.5 million each, according to PG&E. PG&E is probing this and other “exceptionally large monetary claims, which appear suspicious,” according to Bloomberg.
The probe is part of a court process that is attempting to determine the company's potential losses from wildfires caused by its infrastructure. U.S. District Judge James Donato is set to weigh in early this week at a regularly scheduled hearing.
In the case of the emerald, PG&E is seeking appraisal reports and receipts to back up the claims. The company said in a legal filing:
“With respect to the claim for the $280 million emerald, the company wants proof the owner made an effort to secure and protect the emerald and documents showing that the emerald was damaged or destroyed.”
Information from several large claims that total about $370 million will be used to try and figure out whether or not a discount should be applied to false or overvalued claims.
PG& did not identify the owner of the emerald or name specifics about those submitting dubious claims. A committee representing fire victims argue that the company is spotlighting information about individuals who aren't part of the proceeding in front of Judge Donato. The committee also says that PG&E's probing of the claims, in general, is improper. Many victims have been displaced from their homes, have lost family members and are getting psychological treatment, the committee lawyers argued.
Committee lawyers representing the victims said in a filing: “Asking these fire victims to produce financial back-up for their claims and be deposed on the details of this backup is unduly burdensome and should not be permitted.”