Morgan & Morgan, which purports to be the nation’s largest injury law firm, has filed suit on behalf of Lahaina fire victims against Hawaiian Electric Industries, Hawaiian Electric Light Company and Maui Electric Company for negligence, alleging the utility’s electrical infrastructure caused the deadly wildfires.
“At this time, it has been confirmed that over 100 people have died, with hundreds to thousands having suffered injuries, and more than 2,500 homes and businesses destroyed,” the firm stated in a release issued on Friday. “These numbers are expected to dramatically increase. Morgan & Morgan is representing victims of the Lahaina fire who seek compensation and damages for the injuries, pain and suffering, damage to and loss of property, and loss of income that they’ve experienced as a result of the fire.”
According to the complaint, the defendants knew that overhead power lines posed a significant fire hazard during high winds, drought and other adverse weather conditions.
“The State of Hawaii had been in a state of drought leading up to the fire and dangerous weather conditions were imminent, yet the electric companies allegedly failed to de-energize their electrical lines in a timely manner,” the firm contends.
The firm noted that HECO relocated several underground transmission lines in 2018 and placed them overhead as a result of Hurricane Lane.
“The lines that were placed overhead were allegedly never placed back underground, which may have prevented the fire,” the release stated.
The complaint specifically points to power lines that fell and allegedly started a brush fire in the area of Lahainaluna Road around 6:37 a.m. on Aug. 8.
“Because of the alleged negligence of Hawaiian Electric Industries, Hawaiian Electric Company, Hawaii Electric Light Company and Maui Electric Company, Hawaii has had to endure one of the most devastating natural disasters in our country,” said Morgan & Morgan attorneys John Morgan, Benjamin Wilson and Bora Kayan in the release. “Most times, these kinds of events are difficult to prevent and occur naturally — but in the case of the Lahaina Fire, we strongly believe that the damages could have been avoided had these electric companies paid more attention to their infrastructure and the climate conditions.
“The loss of life, property and historic beauty of this island will make this one of the most tragic incidents in Hawaii’s history, and we are committed to seeking justice for those impacted, and holding those responsible for this catastrophe accountable for their actions and inactions,” they said.
The firm’s founder, John Morgan, said he considers the disaster “personal.”
“For many years I have considered Lahaina as my home away from home, and the memories that my family and I have made on this island are filled with love, happiness, and most importantly, kindness from the ever-welcoming Lahaina community,” he said. My family’s home overlooks Front Street in the heart of Lahaina, which was one of the hardest-hit areas. I’m devastated by the losses that we have endured and am committed to doing everything in my power to seek justice for the wonderful people of this island — my friends and neighbors — who did not deserve to experience this disaster.”
This is the second suit filed against HECO as a result of the fires.
LippSmith LLP, together with Foley Bezek Behle & Curtis, LLP and Robertson & Associates, LLP jointly filed a class-action suit against the utility on behalf of victims and survivors of the Lahaina fire on Aug. 12.