Updated 10:45 a.m. Saturday, Mar. 13, 2021 - A 25-minute video interview with Fire Victim Trust Administrator Cathy Yanni has been added to this story, explaining some of the nuts and bolts of the unprecedented wildfire settlement. Action News Now Digital Content Producer Lorraine Dechter spoke with Yanni on Friday afternoon, taking a deep dive into the progress on preliminary payments and pro-rata payments for multiple Northern California fire settlements from the Fire Victim Trust (set up after PG&E's bankruptcy).
CORRECTION: During the interview, Yanni said $50 million in pro-rata payments would be sent out by Monday, March 15, 2021. However, this information is incorrect. Yanni called Action News Now shortly after the interview with a correction. She said it is actually closer to $30 million in pro-rata payments that will be sent out by Monday, March 15.
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – The Fire Victim Trust (FVT) will begin distributing the first round of pro-rata payments on Monday, March 15, toward satisfying the claims of individuals and families who suffered losses in the 2015 Butte Fire, 2017 North Bay Fires, and 2018 Camp Fire.
The initial pro-rata payment will be 30% of the total approved and accepted claim amount.
A total of 71,394 Fire Victims filed claims by the Feb. 26, 2021, deadline. There are eight categories of claims types. Each and every claim must be substantiated and evaluated by the FVT in a process carried out by an experienced team of professionals under the direction of court-appointed Trustee Justice John K. Trotter (ret.) and Claims Administrator Cathy Yanni.
The number of claimants, variety of claims, the quantity of claims, and size of the multi-billion dollar fund make this one of the largest and most complex mass tort settlements in California history, according to the FVT.
The FVT said it laid the groundwork for releasing pro-rata payments in mid-February when it began sending Claims Determination Notices to Fire Victims whose claims had been fully processed and evaluated.
The notices, which continue to go out on a daily basis, indicate the total monetary value assigned to all of a Fire Victim’s claims. In a bankruptcy settlement, claimants may not ultimately receive the full value of their claims, but they must all receive the same proportionate – pro-rata – value. In the first pro-rata payment, each claimant will receive 30% of the value assigned to their claims. Additional rounds of pro-rata payments will follow until the fund is depleted.
For many fire victims, the pro-rata payment will not mark the first time they have received compensation from the FVT.
In November 2020, the FVT decided to begin providing claimants who had submitted the required Claims Questionnaires with preliminary payments of up to $25,000. Distributing a portion of the bankruptcy settlement funds before claims could be fully evaluated was an unprecedented move, but a necessary one given the extreme hardship facing many individuals whose losses from the wildfires have been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic and by the 2020 wildfires in Northern California. These preliminary payments, which have totaled $79 million to date, will continue to be made on an ongoing basis.