A Queens civil court judge has allowed three separate lawsuits against the Long Island Power Authority and National Grid to proceed in cases where homeowners sued the power companies over electrical fires that broke out during Hurricane Sandy.
About 170 plaintiffs alleged their homes caught fire as a result of the companies’ decision not to shut off power on the Rockaway Peninsula in advance of the Oct. 29, 2012 storm. In complaints, they said fires broke out when floodwaters came into contact with electrical systems.
The power companies filed motions to dismiss in all three cases, saying that as government entities or government contractors, they are immune from liability.
In decisions issued July 3, Queens County Supreme Court, Civil Term Justice Bernice Siegal wrote that none of power companies’ arguments had “any merit.”
In Baumann v. LIPA, 13286/13, Siegal said that although LIPA is a public authority, “providing electricity to consumers is a proprietary act … [thus] depriving defendants the protection of the cloak of governmental immunity.” For that reason, she continued, National Grid, a government contractor, cannot “piggyback” on LIPA’s defense.
“We entirely agree with it. The judge is 100 percent correct,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Eric Schwarz of Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo.
Additional firms representing the homeowners are Godosky & Gentile and Sullivan & Galleshaw.
The power companies are represented by Lazer Aptheker Rosella & Yedid and Hammill, O’Brien, Croutier, Dempsey, Pender & Koehler.