14. Koponen v. PG&E

165 Cal. App. 4th 345 2008 Cal. App. LEXIS 1167 (July 28, 2008)

The Court of Appeal (First District, Division 1) held that Section 1759 did not bar claims by landowners that PG&E improperly leased portions of its utility easements to telecommunications providers. The Court held that while the Commission, had issued myriad decisions endorsing the joint use of utility easements, it did so on the presumption that the utilities in question already possessed the legal right to do so. Accordingly, the landowners’ claims that the energy utility’s lease of its easement to a telecommunications provider resulted in a burden on the servient estate did not interfere with any ongoing supervisory activity of the Commission, particularly since the Commission did not have jurisdiction to adjudicate interests in property.65 The Court held that the plaintiffs’ claims for injunctive relief and for damages predicated on the burden to the property could proceed. The Court held, however, that the claim for “disgorgement of unjustly obtained profits” was barred by Section 1759 because the Commission’s ongoing ratemaking authority over PG&E embraces a determination of how PG&E revenues are to be allocated. (In a recent unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeal affirmed a denial of class certification to the plaintiffs and a similarly situated group of land owners.)

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65The Commission does have jurisdiction to adjudicate interests in property in the context of ratemaking. See Camp Meeker at Para. 36 of the main document. While Camp Meeker was technically overruled by the Legislature when it enacted SB799 (see fn. 36, supra), a fair reading is that the legislative act extended only to the standard of review articulated in that 1990 decision.

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