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Plaintiffs in Sandy suit against LIPA, National Grid, get class-action status

Brian Mallard, of Anaheim, California, opens cut-off switches

Brian Mallard, of Anaheim, California, opens cut-off switches on utility poles south of Montauk Highway in Lindenhurst on Nov. 1, 2012. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

A state Supreme Court justice has granted class-action status to former LIPA customers who alleged in a lawsuit that the utility company and its operating partner provided shoddy service when superstorm Sandy struck Long Island in October 2012.

In a June 26 order, Nassau-based Justice Antonio I. Brandveen allowed the plaintiff classification to include all residential Long Island Power Authority customers who lost electricity during the Oct. 29, 2012, storm, continued without power for three days afterward, and did not need electrical inspections for their service to resume.

Brandveen also appointed several plaintiffs to play lead roles in the lawsuit and named four law firms, Wolf Popper of Manhattan, Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz of Manhattan, Douglas & London of Manhattan and Parker Waichman of Port Washington, to serve as their counsel.

The one-page decision is the latest development in a lawsuit filed shortly after the storm that claims LIPA and National Grid, LIPA’s operating partner, were negligent in efforts to restore power to its more than 945,000 customers. PSEG now manages the system.

Plaintiffs contend in the lawsuit that the utilities provided bad information to customers, did not fortify substations and delayed replacing a storm-outage management system. The lawsuit also includes allegations that LIPA and National Grid failed to heed a 2006 study that flagged problems and recommended fixes that could have kept outages to a minimum.

"It’s obviously an important decision because all Long Islanders felt the effect of superstorm Sandy and we all share a common cause, and that common cause was the failure of our power company to protect its ratepayers and its consumers,” said Jay L.T. Breakstone, appellate attorney for Parker Waichman. He said Brandveen’s decision to grant class-action status “allows the ratepayers to band together in an action which no individual ratepayer could undertake by his or herself.”

A PSEG Long Island representative referred inquiries about the Brandveen's ruling to LIPA.

LIPA’s director of communications, Sid Nathan, said the utility intends to appeal the judge’s decision.

In an email, National Grid spokeswoman Wendy Ladd said the utility "is reviewing the decision and will respond with appropriate motions and/or appeals within the time frame required by the order. We will continue to defend National Grid’s storm response as the litigation progresses. We are proud of the tireless efforts of our employees, supported by thousands of supplemental workers, who worked around the clock to restore power to LIPA's  customers and to help rebuild our communities following superstorm Sandy."

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