Hawaiian Electric Company, which is the largest supplier of electricity in Hawaii and supplies power to 95% of Hawaii's population, is facing three major lawsuits for its alleged role in contributing to the devastating wildfires that are currently destroying the Hawaiian islands.
The lawsuits are being filed by multiple different victims of the wildfires who have suffered losses and damages, including property damage, lost wages, injuries, and death.
In this article, we will discuss the details of the lawsuits, what it means for Hawaiian Electric, and what any potential victims should consider if they were affected by the fires.
Hawaiian Electric Faces Three Lawsuits After Deadly Wildfires
The wildfires ravaged thousands of acres in Hawaii and destroyed homes, businesses, and, of course, the natural landscapes.
But buildings and houses were not all that suffered. The fires have also claimed over 100 lives and left thousands injured and displaced. These numbers are expected to continue to rise.
The reason that Hawaiian Electric is being questioned over these wildfires is because forensic investigators discovered that faulty electrical equipment from the power supplier may have sparked the flames that led to these tragic wildfires.
Because of this, numerous lawsuits were filed against the company, alleging negligence and seeking compensation for damages.
Who Is Liable for the Fires in Lahaina?
The wildfires are still officially under investigation, but the current evidence points to the utility companies in Lahaina, including the following:
- Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI)
- Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO)
- Maui Electric Company (MECO)
- The County of Maui Department of Water Supply
- The Maui County government and respective city governments
What Kind of Lawsuits Were Filed Against Hawaiian Electric?
The three lawsuits filed against Hawaiian Electric can actually be broken down into multiple categories. These include a class action lawsuit, wrongful death lawsuit, and personal injury lawsuit.
1. Class Action Lawsuit
Two different class-action lawsuits were filed on behalf of thousands of residents and business owners who suffered property damages and losses due to the wildfires.
Paraphrasing from the Eder lawsuit, it alleges that:
- Despite the National Weather Service issuing a High Wind Watch and Red Flag Warning, the defendants inexcusably kept their power lines energized during forecasted high fire danger conditions.
- By failing to shut off the power during these dangerous fire conditions, the defendants caused loss of life, serious injuries, destruction of property, displacement of thousands of people, and damage to many of Hawaii’s historic and cultural sites.
- Additionally, scores of people were burned to death. Other victims suffered severe burns, smoke inhalation, and additional serious injuries. The fire also caused severe mental stress and emotional devastation in its wake.
2. Personal Injury Lawsuit
Another lawsuit filed against Hawaiian Electric that is not a class action filing has been brought by Singleton Schreiber on behalf of several individuals who sustained injuries in the wildfires.
This lawsuit claims that the company's negligence directly led to the fires, which caused severe burns, respiratory problems, and other injuries to the plaintiffs.
The victims seek compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages related to their injuries.
3. Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The families of a victim who died in the fires are also eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric.
There have not been any specific wrongful death lawsuits filed yet, but the class action suits mention that the electrical company was negligent in maintaining its electrical equipment and that it resulted in the deadly fire that claimed the life of their loved ones.
For the families who did lose a loved one to the Maui fires, they will be able to seek compensation for the wrongful death, including loss of income, past medical bills, pain and suffering, funeral expenses, and more.
Implications for Hawaiian Electric
These lawsuits against Hawaiian Electric have shown that the electrical company's maintenance practices are important and that they may play a bigger role in our life than just providing us with the power to cool our homes.
These lawsuits also emphasize the importance of accountability for electrical companies and similar industries. If negligence leads to severe consequences, then they should be held responsible.
If Hawaiian Electric Company is found liable in the existing or upcoming lawsuits, it could face significant financial penalties and may be required to take measures to prevent future wildfires.
Hawaiian Wildfires Timeline
August 16, 2023 - The death toll from the wildfires has reached 106, making it the deadliest in over a century in the U.S. Hawaii's Governor Josh Green estimates that 10 to 20 more victims may be added to the death toll daily. On Tuesday, Maui County officials began releasing the names of the victims.
August 15, 2023 - Sixty people who were previously reported missing have been found safe in a house. However, many others are still unaccounted for.
August 14, 2023 - The death toll has risen to 99 people, and Governor Green warns that this number may likely double in the next ten days. The Upcountry/Kula fire is 60% contained, the Lahaina fire is 85% contained, and the Pulehu/Kihei fire is now 100% contained.
August 13, 2023 - 96 deaths have been confirmed, and many others are still missing. Governor Green estimates the total damages could reach $6 billion. The fires are still not fully contained.
August 12, 2023 - The death toll has risen to 89 people. Approximately 2,200 buildings and structures have been destroyed, and 2,170 acres have burned. Six fires continue to burn on Maui and the Big Island. The Lahaina fire is 85% contained. A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Hawaiian Electric, alleging that the company erred by keeping its power lines energized amid high wind warnings.
August 11, 2023 - The death toll has reached 55 people, with numbers expected to rise as crews continue searching the charred ruins of Lahaina. Approximately 11,000 people are without power, cell phone service is sporadic, and 2,000 people are living in six emergency shelters on the island.
August 10, 2023 - The number of deaths from the wildfires has climbed to 53 people as search teams continue rescue efforts. Authorities are overwhelmed by the destruction and cannot determine how many hundreds of buildings have been destroyed. The "older neighborhood" in Lahaina, a major tourist hub, is completely destroyed.
August 9, 2023 - The death toll has risen to 36 people, with many more critically injured. As many as 271 structures in the community have been burned, including homes. Three large fires remain active and out of control on Maui.
August 8, 2023 - The fires started early in the morning as small brush fires and quickly consumed homes and neighborhoods.
- 4:46 p.m. Video footage shows an entire neighborhood in Lahaina engulfed in flames.
- 3:20 p.m. The fire perimeter has expanded to 1,000 acres, and the Fire Department is urging residents of Pi’iholo and Olinda roads to evacuate.
- 2:30 p.m. The fire near Lahainaluna Road is burning out of control, and residents are fleeing their homes in panic.
- 9:55 a.m. Maui County reports that the fire is 100% contained.
- 6:37 a.m. Authorities receive initial reports of a dry grass fire on Lahainaluna Road.
- 12:22 a.m. An Upcountry brush fire near Olinda Road is reported to authorities, prompting evacuations.
August 7, 2023 - Maui experiences strong winds with peak gusts of 45 to 58 miles per hour. Weather forecasters issued a red flag warning that high winds combined with drought conditions could increase the risk of wildfires.
August 3, 2023 - The National Weather Service in Maui starts alerting the public about the fire danger.
May 23, 2023 - A flash drought begins in Maui, a dangerous weather condition that results in such dry conditions that moisture is sucked out of the ground and plants, leading to a vicious cycle of increasing heat and dry weather. These conditions are ideal for a wildfire.
What Should Victims Do?
If you or a loved one were affected by the Hawaiian wildfires and believe that Hawaiian Electric's negligence may have played a role in your losses, there are several steps you should take:
1. Document Your Losses
Gather evidence of your property damages, medical expenses, lost income, and other losses that you experienced due to the fires.
2. Seek Legal Advice
Contact a qualified attorney who specializes in dealing with large lawsuits and major corporations. An experienced lawyer can help you understand your rights and options and can guide you through the legal process.
3. Consider Joining a Class Action or Filing a Lawsuit
If you suffered similar losses as many other victims of the wildfires, you may be eligible to join a class-action lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric Company. This allows you to combine your claim with others and seek compensation collectively.
4. File Your Own Lawsuit
If you have a strong case, your attorney may advise you to file a lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric to seek compensation for your losses. This will give you much more control over your case and a much higher chance of success and proper compensation.
Contact Dolman Law Group
The death toll from the Hawaiian wildfires continues to grow, thousands of people continue to become injured, and thousands of families have been displaced from their homes.
If you have lost your home or business from the fire, our lawyers can help you get the most from your homeowners’ insurance policy or business insurance policy. We may be able to get you substantial compensation from the utility companies that may be responsible for the fire.
If you were injured or lost a family member to the Hawaiian wildfires, contact the experienced attorneys at Dolman Law Group. We can help you to recover all the damages that this tragic and unnecessary event has caused. This includes current and future medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, funeral expenses, and any other losses.
Our team has extensive experience in handling lawsuits that involve large corporations and have led to major injuries or deaths. We have decades of experience in taking on huge corporations like Johnson & Johnson, 3M, Dupont, Geico, Dow, Bayer, Unilever, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, and even the U.S. Military.