PSEG Long Island has filed to appeal the case of a Baldwin woman who won a small-claims court victory against the utility after she charged PSEG’s negligence caused thousands of dollars in damage to electrical equipment in her home.
Marian Goldstein, 83, said she was served with the notice of appeal on Friday. “I’m disappointed,” said the lung-cancer survivor, who said her husband Michael Goldstein has been sick and hospitalized. “I don’t have much strength left but I’m going to fight.”
PSEG spokeswoman Brooke Houston said the company filed the appeal because “we disagree with the verdict.”
Meanwhile, a LIPA trustee who has called for a “complete review” of PSEG’s claim process, on Friday said he was “outraged” the company filed the appeal notice “knowing it’s an agenda topic” for a LIPA board meeting later this month.
“I’m going to contact our legal department to see if they can stop it,” said LIPA trustee Jeff Greenfield. “It’s no way to treat our customers.”
Goldstein filed her original suit in January, charging that the utility’s work several hours after a storm-related outage led to a surge of voltage more suitable for industrial use through the Baldwin neighborhood. It caused more than $7,000 in damage to her home heating/AC system, circuit breakers, surge protectors, lighting equipment and an air purifier, among other things, she said. She was awarded $5,121.31 in small claims court in April.
Goldstein’s neighbor, Robin Sciortino, filed suit May 1 against the utility, charging she had $3,600 in damage to electrical equipment in her home the same night due to PSEG’s negligence.
Sciortino said she was “shocked” that PSEG filed to appeal the Goldstein verdict after reading the comments of Greenfield in Newsday about the suit. Greenfield called for a full review of PSEG’s claims process after reading of Marian Goldstein’s treatment by the utility.
Goldstein, the former director of social work at Long Island Jewish Medical Center (now Northwell Health), and a member of the New York State Board of Medicine, blasted PSEG’s claims process as “nasty” and said the company treated her like an “imbecile” over the months of requesting a settlement, documents and basic information about the case. LIPA’s top official, Tom Falcone, denied her Freedom of Information Law request for the investigative report of the incident, calling it “privileged.”
Michael Goldstein, 86, said he was surprised the utility would risk filing the appeal given the facts of the case and the likelihood that his wife would win.
“According to these people [at PSEG], they can burn down your home and we have no recourse,” he said of language in LIPA’s formal rule book. “You can’t excuse yourself from negligence.”
Houston, speaking generally, said the utility reimburses customers for damages caused by negligence. But, she added, “we are not responsible for damages caused by things that are beyond our control, including weather-related conditions, animal contacts and utility equipment failures,” she said. Doing so “would result in higher electric bills” for all customers.
Marian Goldstein countered it was the utility’s negligence, not the storm, that caused the damage. She said a vital element of the case that surprised and led her to continue to fight was the testimony of a PSEG expert during the trial. Rather than maintain devices such as the transformer that malfunctioned in their neighborhood, she said, “The expert said, ‘When it breaks we fix it.’ I was like what?”