Plaintiffs in Sandy Suit Against LIPA, National Grid, Get Class-Action Status
October 2012: Hurricane Sandy becomes the most destructive hurricane of the season in the Atlantic after inflicting almost $70 billion in damage. The storm was also one of the widest on record: at its widest, the hurricane stretched almost 900 miles across. The storm and its accompanying storm surge struck New Jersey’s Atlantic City as well as New York City. In so doing, many streets and subways in the Big Apple and surrounding areas were flooded, and electrical services were cut off for days. At one point, over 2,000,000 electrical power customers were without services. Some of this was due to the destructive power of the storm, while other power companies voluntarily turned off power ahead of the storm in an effort to minimize damage to their systems and other property.
Once the storm had passed, customers whose electricity was out expected service to be promptly restored. For some customers of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and its operating partner National Grid, this restoration of service did not come right away. Lawsuits were filed charging LIPA and National Grid with negligence, and in late June these aggrieved power customers were granted class-action status.
What are the Lawsuits Against LIPA and National Grid About, and Why is Class-Action Status Notable?
The plaintiffs in the lawsuits currently pending against LIPA and National Grid are all customers of the power companies who allege that the company acted negligently in managing its response to the power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy. The plaintiffs specifically argue that LIPA and National Grid did not maintain an adequate flow of good and reliable information during the outages, did not strengthen substations, unreasonably postponed the replacement of an outage management system, and ignored suggested fixes set forth in a 2006 report that, if implemented, may have helped mitigate the damage caused by the hurricane (and, thereby, perhaps limited the number and/or duration of power outages in the aftermath of the storm).
Class-action status enables these various plaintiffs to pool their resources and counsel together as opposed to bringing their own individual claims and establishing that they individually are entitled to compensation of a specific amount. Individuals may feel overwhelmed or intimidated about the prospect of bringing a lawsuit against a large corporate entity. After all, when compared with the vast financial and legal resources that large companies such as LIPA have at their disposal, individuals may find their own resources to be meager and may, therefore, decline to pursue compensation. Being granted permission to pursue a class action lawsuit, however, gives plaintiffs some distinct advantages:
- Plaintiffs can generally expect to pay lower litigation costs since all the plaintiffs involved in the class action lawsuit (which can number in the hundreds) share the expenses of only a few law firms or attorneys. This also enables plaintiffs to be able to afford higher-quality representation as well;
- Plaintiffs will also tend to experience a greater parity in recovery: the chances of one plaintiff recovering a large amount of compensation and another plaintiff recovering only a small amount of compensation are rather low in a class action lawsuit; and
- Plaintiffs benefit from having one judge to hear the claims of the class. Absent a class action lawsuit; there may be dozens (if not more) judges who would each need to hear the facts of the situation and render a verdict in each individual case. In a class action lawsuit, one judge hears the facts of the case and those facts need only be presented one time.
Because of these advantages, the news that they are now part of a class action lawsuit is likely good news for the plaintiffs in this litigation as it should mean that they can not only expect a more uniform outcome but can also expect to spend less during the course of the case.
Disadvantages of Class Action Lawsuits
This does not mean that the path forward for the LIPA/National Grid plaintiffs is free from any risk. Time will ultimately tell if certification as a class is in the best interests of these plaintiffs, but some of the more common problems associated with class action lawsuits include:
- Decisions are made by class representatives, not by all of the litigants together. In a class action lawsuit, several individual plaintiffs are chosen to stand in or represent the remaining members of the class. These representatives are the ones who will end up making the important decisions about how the case should progress and be presented;
- Compensation in class action lawsuits may not always take the form of monetary damages; instead, compensation for members of a class action lawsuit may sometimes take the form of rebates, vouchers, or other similar tokens; and
- Choosing the class representatives carefully is important. Class representatives who do not have strong claims for compensation may not only risk losing their lawsuit and not recovering compensation but also hurting the opportunity for other class members to recover as well.
When a class action has been initiated, potential class members are typically notified (so long as they can be identified and located) and informed of the class action lawsuit. These potential class members may then either choose to join the class action lawsuit – typically by showing they meet some basic eligibility requirement – or they may choose to pursue their claim individually, apart from the class action lawsuit. If they choose the latter, then they are not entitled to any recovery just because the class may have been successful. Potential class members must, therefore, weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a class action lawsuit before deciding whether they will join.
Can LIPA and National Grid Be Held Responsible for Their Actions and Inactions?
LIPA and National Grid had previously sought to have the plaintiffs’ lawsuits dismissed on the grounds that LIPA and National Grid were private entities who had stepped into the role of a public agency or service provider. The court had found this argument unpersuasive, which means that LIPA and National Grid can indeed be held responsible for the steps they took – and didn’t take – following Hurricane Sandy. Provided that class representatives can show that LIPA and National Grid acted in a manner that was careless and unreasonable considering the circumstances, the class should be able to recover compensation. A court will consider evidence of what other power providers did or did not do not only during and after the storm but also before the storm and consider whether the actions of LIPA and National Grid were appropriate.
What Can a Law Firm Like Parker Waichman LLP Do For Me?
With years of experience in assisting victims who have been affected by the careless and negligent acts of others, Parker Waichman LLP can spring into action when you or a loved one find yourselves victimized by another person, company, or service provider. Our Hurricane Sandy LIPA lawsuit attorneys will work tirelessly on your behalf, providing you with top-notch legal advice and representation and helping you obtain monetary damages and other compensation necessary for you to begin putting your life back together. Call Parker Waichman LLP right away at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) so that our Hurricane Sandy National Grid lawsuit attorneys can review your case immediately.
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