Monday, October 29, 2012

Consumer Attorney -- Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy battered the Northeast on Monday, causing widespread damage throughout New England, and leaving New York with the a number of fatalities and prolonged power outages.

From what I've heard on the radio, LIPA's still saying 7-10 days, and I'm hoping they are trying to underpromise and overdeliver. Friends and family have told me lights in parts of Commack, Nesconset, Seldon, Manorville and Shirley are back on. Smithtown, St. James, and Lake Grove are still out. Hauppauge was still out as of last night. Verizon's cell service is mostly out, except for in the areas with power and an occasional spotty signal.

Suffolk County's courts are open today 10/31, if they happen to be on your trick or treat route.

Hurricane Sandy is likely to lead to a number of situations where lawyers are needed: car accidents, insurance claims, and business disputes, to name a few.

Depending on demand, I may investigate and send a foil request regarding LIPA's response to the storm, or become otherwise involved in assisting those who are impacted. Utilities aren't liable for outages absent "gross negligence," and have a tariff that covers many claims. I was involved in litigation with Con Ed over a large balckout in Queens several years ago, and I received a number of calls from Nassau and Suffolk (and was interviewed for a news story) when Irene hit. At the time, with Irene, recommended people file a tariff claim, and did not commence an action.

I'm curios how LIPA prepared for this storm in light of what they learned from Irene. At the moment, there are still a ton of trees down, so we'll have to wait and see.

Below are some pictures of how Smithtown, Long Island, looked after the storm.

11/5 UPDATE - Still no power in much of Smithtown (including my house). My law office, in Hauppauge, is up and running. I'm confident that LIPA's employees, themselves Long Islanders, are working as hard as they can. Other States, however, seem to have responded much more quickly, and people are seriously questioning LIPA's preparedness for this storm. The gas shortage has also become a major problem.  From the information I've heard, it's rumored that many locations will not have power until November 14th or 28th.

11/7 UPDATE - Still no power in at least my area of Smithtown; the gas lines are absurd.

Related Posts & Websites:

* FEMA Disaster Assistance (learn if you are eligable for, and apply for, Federal disaster relief assistance)

* New York State Public Service Commission (regulatory body overseeing utilities);

* LIPA Storm Center (updates and information from LIPA about the storm response)

Hurricane Irene Power Outage Claims (A prior blog post explaining how courts assess liability against utilities if they are sued (whether in an individual lawsuit or class action, and providing information about the PSC's internal claim process);

* "Israel Warns LIPA on Storm Response," by Jason Molinet, 10/30/12 ( Congressman says "LIPA during Irene did not perform satisfactorily. They said they got their act together. We’ll be watching.")

Gas Lines Persist as Fuel StartsFlowing Again,” By Timothy Bolger, Long Island Press, 11/2/12

* "What Cuomo can do to Con Ed and LIPA," By Dana Rubenstein, Capital New York, 11/7/12

Can customers sue power companies for outages? Yes, butit's hard to win,” Reuters News & Insight, By Alison Frakel, 11/8/2012 (I was interviewed for this article)

* "Why LIPA failed: Utility ignored warnings it wasn't readyfor major storm,” Newsday by Gus Garcia-Roberts and Will Van Sant, 11/8/2012 (argues that LIPA "failed to upgrade antiquated technology, neglected vital maintenance and regularly underbudgeted for storm response")

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