The Melville-based attorney suing LIPA ratepayers affected by Hurricane Sandy said the utility has neglected its customers and has displayed “horrific” communication during the two weeks of blackouts.
Kenneth Mollins announced Tuesday his class-action lawsuit seeking unspecified damages from the Long Island Power Authority and its contractor, National Grid, which are both named as defendants.
“The people of Nassau and Suffolk County have been stepped on, have been abused, have been neglected,” Mollins said during a news conference at his office.
“The basis of this lawsuit stems from the gross neglect in addition to breach of contract,” he added. “When we all pay LIPA a bill every month, that forms a contract and every contract is a covenant of good faith and they failed to honor that covenant of good faith.”
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In response, National Grid emailed a statement saying “we are aware of the lawsuit,” but didn’t comment further on the pending litigation. LIPA didn’t return a call for comment.
“Our focus continues to be on those most affected by the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy,” National Grid said. “We continue to work with local officials and relief agencies to provide ongoing support to those communities and to be there for our customers.”
Mollins predicted the lawsuit would be one of the biggest in New York State history, adding that the amount of damages would be “well into the multimillions of dollars.” He expects some 650,000 to 1 million LIPA customers to join the suit.
“We believe that anybody who was damaged in any way whatsoever, either monetarily, physically or emotionally, or who’ve been defrauded, who’ve been forced to go to different places for different reasons should be members of this class,” he said.
Superstorm Sandy barreled into Long Island on Oct. 29, knocking out power to about 90 percent of LIPA’s 1.1 million customers.
LIPA said Tuesday that 99 percent of its customers and businesses were restored. Still, more than 12,000 customers were in the dark as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the utility’s website.
The outage map doesn’t include 35,000 customers from Rockaway Peninsula, Nassau County, the City of Long Beach and some Suffolk residents who reside in flooded areas that can’t be powered up until their home equipment is inspected.
Residents in those areas have been especially critical of LIPA’s communication over the past two weeks.
Jason Abelove of Oceanside, one of the two plaintiffs in the suit, said his town was “largely forgotten” after Sandy hit.
“My house was 45 degrees,” he said. “I sat in the house—day and night—until LIPA felt like sending an inspector.”
Mollins shot down the notion that customers who don’t take part in the suit will be hurt if the utilities lose, citing insurance that National Gird “probably” has in place for lawsuits.