LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A Huntington Beach restaurant owner who suffered severe burns and brain damage when an underground transformer exploded during an Oktoberfest celebration last fall has filed a negligence suit against Southern California Edison.
Bernie Bischof, 60, owner of Old World German Restaurant, alleges that the utility created a “death trap” that nearly killed him and injured some of his family members when a fireball erupted on the patio of his restaurant Oct. 5 in the middle of a crowded celebration.
“Despite the well-known risks associated with underground transformers, including the risk of catastrophic explosion, SCE failed to properly maintain, inspect, repair and replace (an) underground transformer vault — doing nothing to prevent a massive transformer explosion,” the suit alleges.
In a statement issued Wednesday evening, SCE said it was aware of the lawsuit.
Bischof suffered second- and third-degree burns over nearly half of his body and required multiple skin graft procedures to repair much of the damaged tissue that extended from his head to the bottom of his legs, according to court documents.
The suit also said Bischof suffered significant brain damage and permanent cognitive deficits that make him more susceptible to developing dementia.
“This is the new harsh reality for Bernie, who is left to worry about his future, about who will care for his sons and if he will become a burden on his boys as he ages,” the suit says.
Also suing are four members of Bischof’s family who were injured in the incident: Markus Bischof, his son; Josef Bischof, his father; Cyndie Kasko, his sister; and Jason Kasko, his brother-in-law.
“Sadly, the transformer explosion was preventable,” the suit alleges. “It resulted from years of shoddy maintenance, cursory and ineffective visual inspections and a refusal to upgrade aging equipment, practices that reflect SCE’ s company-wide policy of placing profits over public safety.”
The suit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, is seeking unspecified damages. The full text of the filing can be read online.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)