The Queens mass tort attorneys of Sullivan & Galleshaw are representing 120 victims who lost their homes to electrical fire damage when Hurricane Sandy struck New York City on October 29, 2012. We are pleased to announce that a recent decision by the Second Department, Appellate Division, which determined that power companies National Grid Energy Services (NGES) and Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) are not protected by governmental immunity, will allow this crucial lawsuit to proceed. The decision marks an important legal victory for our clients, who we will continue to vigorously represent in the fight to obtain justice for their devastating losses.
Our Queens Mass Tort Lawyers Lead Lawsuit Representing Hurricane Sandy Victims
Hurricane Sandy was one of the most destructive hurricanes ever to strike the United States. Starting as a wave in the Caribbean Sea, Sandy hit the nation’s east coast toward the end of October 2012, its violent winds reaching maximum speeds as high as 115 miles per hour. While dozens of states throughout the eastern U.S. suffered property damage, injuries, or fatalities, few were affected as profoundly as New York, where 53 people were killed and more than 2 million people lost power during the storm’s peak.
Over 100,000 homes were damaged on Long Island alone, including more than 2,000 that were damaged beyond the point of habitability. But not all of the destruction was directly caused by flooding. Three electrical fires erupted on the Rockaway Peninsula on October 29, the largest of which consumed more than 130 businesses and residences in Breezy Point. Another 16 buildings were destroyed by flames in Rockaway Park, while 31 other homes and businesses burned in Belle Harbor after salty floodwaters made contact with a source of electrical power – a key detail in the suit Sullivan & Galleshaw are now leading against LIPA.
The lawsuit, Heeran v. Long Island Power Authority, argues that “LIPA and NGES… should have foreseen, among other things, that salt water from the storm surge would come into contact with electrical transmission lines, that fires would result if the electrical transmission lines were live, and that the fires would cause property damage.” Critically, “The plaintiffs allege that in light of what was foreseeable” – namely, the potential for fire damage – “the appellants [NGES and LIPA] were negligent in their preparation for and reaction to the hurricane,” leading to otherwise preventable property destruction and financial harm.
Negligence Causes Electrical Fires, Property Damage in Breezy Point, Belle Harbor, New York
When the suit was initially filed in 2013, LIPA and NGES argued that they took “governmental action” in preparation for, and in response to, the disaster unfolding on Rockaway Peninsula, and should be shielded from liability for negligence by governmental immunity. As the suit explains, “[The power companies] contended that LIPA is immune from liability under the doctrine of governmental function immunity because its response to the hurricane… amounted to the performance of a discretionary governmental action. They further insisted that NGES… was [also] entitled to the benefit of [immunity] because… NGES was providing an essential governmental function on behalf of LIPA.”
This argument was rejected by the Second Department, Appellate Division earlier this month, enabling the suit to proceed in Queens County Supreme Court.
“This is a tremendous victory for my clients,” said Queens accident attorney Keith Sullivan, “many of whom are still trying to repair their homes and get their businesses opened. My clients literally lost everything,” he added. “They deserved better from their power company.”
“We lost everything we owned,” said plaintiff Katy Gallagher, 70, who described herself as feeling “pretty angry” about the damage. “If they had shut off the electricity,” she asked, “where would we be today? We’d be home.”
“My house burned down with everything in it,” said Patrick Mullaney, another plaintiff in the suit. “Thankfully, my wife, 8-month-old twins and 4-year-old were not in it. I got back [home] at 6 o’clock the next morning, and there was nothing there. It was smoldering. It was devastating.”
In a press release, Sullivan wrote, “Had LIPA and National Grid acted responsibly in preparing for the storm my clients would be living in their homes with all of their life’s possessions and these two communities would not look like a war-zone.”
While the damages being sought have not been made explicit, Sullivan estimates that the value of the lawsuit will ultimately exceed $80 million.
National Grid representatives described the company’s response to the disaster as “reasonable and appropriate.”
If you or one of your family members was injured or suffered property damage from a crash, explosion, or other type of accident in Queens, you need experienced legal representation on your side. To set up a free legal consultation, call the New York City personal injury lawyers of Sullivan & Galleshaw at (718) 843-0300. We can help you understand whether you have a claim if you or a loved one was hurt in an accident in Queens, Brooklyn, or Manhattan.