The largest and longest restoration effort in LIPA's history is now also the subject of a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of two ratepayers who allege the authority and its operating partner, National Grid, were "grossly negligent" in restoring power to more than 945,000 customers.
The suit, filed Tuesday in State Supreme Court in Mineola, charges LIPA and National Grid "grossly neglected vital maintenance," failed to fortify its substations, delayed replacing its outage management system, provided false information to ratepayers, and ignored a 2006 study that identified problems and could have minimized outages. The suit's named ratepayers, Jeff Mollins of Plainview and Jason Abelove of Oceanside, seek unspecified money damages and a review of LIPA operations to prevent the events from recurring, said their lawyer, Kenneth Mollins of Melville.
LIPA and National Grid declined to comment.
At a briefing Tuesday, Abelove said he spent more than $2,500 on electrical inspections required by LIPA, only to be told they were not good enough for his power to be restored.
"LIPA pulled us off the outage map. They literally wrote us off," said Abelove. His power was restored Tuesday morning after two weeks in the dark, he said.
Attorney Mollins, who is the brother of co-plaintiff Jeff Mollins, said he expects the lawsuit to be one of the "biggest class-actions ever filed," with 600,000 to 1 million possible plaintiffs. It's up to a judge to certify class-action status.
"We want to go through their books, we want to know how they can allow people to be without power for three weeks, allowing workers to baby-sit poles for six hours without getting the power back on."
Asked whether ratepayers wouldn't ultimately pay the damages through a rate hike, Mollins said it's likely that LIPA has insurance to cover those costs. In any case, he said, the suit will seek to shine a light on LIPA and National Grid operations.
One ratepayer who remained in the dark even Tuesday said he would "absolutely" join in the class action. Robert Anastasio of Lindenhurst said after assurances from politicians, repair crews and LIPA customer service reps, his power remained out Tuesday night. His meter was removed a week ago, but he has had the required electrical work and inspections, he said.
"Every person tells me a different story," he said, as lights from a generator flickered off in his home. "Nobody did what they said they were going to do." As for the lawsuit, he said, "Get it to me. This is an outrage."