A federal district court judge Tuesday dismissed half the claims against LIPA in a case by a Rockville Centre woman who alleged her life was thrown into chaos after she was improperly denied an account because her ex-husband owed $7,000 to the utility.
Emma Gunter, acting as her own attorney in a federal suit filed in 2008, charged that LIPA’s refusal to give her an account in her own name in 2006 led to a cascading series of events, including repeated loss of power to her home, her arrest on child endangerment charges, the loss of her children to foster care and the destruction of her home after pipes froze. She is seeking more than $700,000 in damages.
A LIPA spokesman declined to comment.
After a bench trial in Brooklyn, Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall granted LIPA’s request for a dismissal of Gunter’s claim that LIPA violated state and federal deceptive practices laws.
The judge has yet to rule on claims that LIPA on multiple occasions violated its own rule book and deprived Gunter of her constitutional rights. She ordered both sides to file findings of fact and conclusions by month’s end.
In court papers, Gunter charged that LIPA violated 27 of its own rules in handling her case, including termination of service during cold-weather periods and while a child with an electronic breathing device lived in the home, failing to properly process her application, failing to notify Gunter in writing of a denial for service within three days, and unlawfully demanding a deposit.
Gunter, who took over the home in the Lakeview section of Rockville Centre in 2006 after her ex-husband moved out, charged that LIPA illegally denied her service until she paid his account, which was in arrears.
Gunter said she was forced to pay more than $4,000 and still was denied service. LIPA in court papers said it had no record that Gunter applied for service, and said she failed to provide a deed to her house that was needed to process her application.
LIPA’s rules allow a number of “reasonable” documents for proof, and Gunter said she supplied both closing papers and the deed.
After court Tuesday, Gunter said she was disappointed by the judge’s ruling, but vowed to appeal the dismissed charges, and continue to pursue the remaining claims.
“I’d classify this as a detour to the destination,” she said. “I feel confident the [Appeals] court will overturn what she did, just on procedure alone.”