Hawaii utility companies face lawsuit amid Maui fires over downed, 'energized' power lines

The firms allege the company's downed powerlines contributed significantly to the fire in Maui.


Three law firms filed a class-action lawsuit against a Hawaiian electric company on Saturday. The firms allege the company's downed powerlines contributed significantly to the deadliest fire in a century in the United States. 

According to a local Hawaiian news outlet that obtained the complaint, the company Hawaiian Electric supplies 95 percent of the state's power and "inexcusably kept their power lines energized during forecasted high fire danger conditions.” 

With a death count of 93, the fire on Maui is the deadliest American wildfire in 105 years.  

The law firms bringing the suit are LippSmith LLP, along with Foley Bezek Behle & Curtis, LLP and Robertson & Associates, LLP. 

Four days before the fires in Maui, the National Weather Service (NWS) warned in a post on X that a tropical storm was approaching the island.  

The NWS said that Hawaii could face "indirect impacts" from Hurricane Dora. In addition, warnings of "strong and gusty" wind, as well as "dry weather & high fire danger," were given.  

Hawaiin Electric became aware of these warnings yet did not shut off the power lines that came down. The suit alleges that the island experienced loss of life, property, and serious injuries as a result of the company not taking timely action.  

Co-founder of  LippSmith LLP, Graham LippSmith, said, "We have been representing thousands of homeowners across the state of Hawaii for many years now, and we are humbled to represent the victims and survivors of this tragedy." 

The practice of shutting down the power to lines during weather conducive to conditions for a wildfire is common practice in the Western United States. In California, for example, downed power lines have resulted in many wildfires across the state.  

According to the complaint, Jennifer Potter, a member of the Hawaiian Public Utilities Commission, said there "was absolutely knowledge within the state and within the electric industry that fire was a huge, huge concern on the island of Maui." 

Potter stated in the suit that Hawaiian Electric was "not as proactive as they should have been." 

The last wildfire resulting in more deaths took place in 1918 when 453 people were killed in the Cloquet & Moose Lake Fires in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  

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