BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. -- After two years of intense negotiations on behalf of the victims of the Northern California wildfires, the lawyers in case held a press conference Sunday afternoon to outline some of the details of the $13.5 settlement.
The victims will be paid $13.5 billion. Half paid in cash, the other half paid in stock.
The wildfires that occurred between 2015 and 2018 were allegedly started by faulty PG&E equipment. It includes the Camp Fire in 2018, Tubbs Fire in 2017, Butte Fire of 2015 and the Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire in Oakland. It does not include this year's Kincade Fire.
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Lawyer Richard Bridgford, whose firm is one of the three representing victims in the case, says once PG&E emerges from bankruptcy, the new company's stock will be issued to victims that will be cleared of past PG&E liabilities. He says the stock will be transferred to a trust and then purchased by third-party financial companies, thus providing cash to the victims.
"So they are actually drawing on the future value of PG&E to compensate the victims... drawing upon the fact that they will be generating billions of dollars income as a public monopoly," explains Bridgford.
Denny Kat-Kuoy, a single father of three, attended the meeting hoping to get answers.
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He says he understands that lawsuits are complicated, but he is still uncertain about the stock option as being the best option.
"Stock is very risky. People already had a lot of risk. We can't afford to take any more risk," he says, adding, "It sounds very good, a big number. But we don't know how many (victims there are) and how it breaks down."
Andrew Luttringer lost his home in the Tubbs Fire. He and his wife have been living an apartment ever since. He is thrilled that an agreement was reached so quickly.
"When this thing started originally, I was thinking two to five years. You know, the courts move slow. So if we start seeing some settlements towards the end of next year, I'm totally happy with that," says Luttringer.
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PG&E issued a statement about the settlement on Friday.
CEO Bill Johnson wrote, in part:
"From the beginning of the Chapter 11 process, getting wildfire victims fairly compensated, especially the individuals, has been our primary goal. We want to help our customers, our neighbors and our friends in those impacted areas recover and rebuild after these tragic wildfires,"
The settlement has the approval of Governor Gavin Newsom, but it still has to be signed off by a bankruptcy judge. The lawyers expect that decision within the next few months. They say if the settlement is approved, victims could start to see money by the end of 2020. They add that the victims will be paid based on their losses.
According to Bridgford, the settlement is intended to help victims with no insurance or who were under-insured insurance, which Bridgford says includes about 95% of the defendants.
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