Personal injury

San Antonio law firm files lawsuit over wildfires in Maui

San Antonio Watts Jira The law firm is part of a legal team that has filed a lawsuit alleging that Hawaii’s largest electric company caused the devastating Lahaina Fire in Maui.

The company expects to file “hundreds of lawsuits” on behalf of individual clients against it Hawaiian Electric Companyand its subsidiaries Hawaii Electric Light Co. Inc. and Maui Electric Co. Ltd, and third parties partner Watts Guerra Michael Watts He said.

Watts said he flew to Maui on Sunday and this week shared the results of his company’s investigation. The suit says the company’s operation of its infrastructure was “negligent and reckless”.

“This fire was ignited by the Hawaii Electric Company’s equipment, and it could have been completely preventable,” Watts said in a text message.

Offering assistance: San Antonio marches to help families devastated by the fires in Maui

Hawaiian Electric did not respond to a request for comment, however The Wall Street Journal reported The company said it would investigate any role its infrastructure played and would cooperate with the investigation launched by Hawaii’s attorney general.

“We all think it’s important to understand what happened. And I think we all think it’s important to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Shelly KimuraHawaiian Electric CEO told the newspaper.

Watts Guerra is a firm that specializes in personal injury, class tort, product liability, and commercial litigation. Watts has personally led or played a major role in several high-profile legal battles locally and nationally.

He has served as co-lead counsel for Bexar County in litigation aimed at holding opioid manufacturers and distributors liable for the costs of the addiction epidemic. He filed wrongful death lawsuits against CPS Energy and the Texas Electricity Reliability Board during the 2021 winter storm that led to widespread power and water outages. He is also representing plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging that the heartburn medication Zantac contains a carcinogenic substance.

California wildfires

Suing energy companies is nothing new for Watts, a nationally prominent litigator who moved more than 2,000 miles from his home in San Antonio during the pandemic to Launch of a collective damage litigation practice group His company is based in Guaynabo, a city located in the northern part of Puerto Rico.

Watts Guerra headed the legal team that obtained A $13.5 billion settlement against PG&E On behalf of thousands of victims of wildfires in California in 2017 and 2018.

This team asked for help from Optical fiberwho, as a law clerk in the 1990s, helped build a successful legal case against PG&E over groundwater pollution in a Southern California city.

The case inspired the 2000 movie “Optical fiber,” Which starred Julia Roberts in the movie Oscar winning performance.

“Like PG&E, whose cruelty killed 86 innocent people in the 2018 Camp Fire, Hawaii Electric killed far more in Lahaina because of its failure to learn the lessons learned in California and invest the dollars needed to prevent this type of disaster from happening again.” Watts said in a text message.

The Maui fire killed at least 110 people; And more than 1,000 others are missing. The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that rebuilding Maui will cost at least $5.5 billion, according to various reports.

Dwellings burned

Watts Guerra has partnered with personal injury law firm Wailuku Abo, Rick and Kusachi To file a case in state court. Nominal partner Jean Apo and a family business and trust are the plaintiffs.

On Aug. 8, the suit says, “high winds caused power lines to collapse when utility poles and equipment owned by the (Hawaii Electric) companies snapped, leading to a chain of fires that quickly spread.”

The lawsuit added that the fire became “uncontainable” and spread westward to Lahaina, burning to the ground the plaintiffs’ “historic family residences.”

The suit says the companies have not spent any money on wildfire prevention and mitigation since 2021, and no money has been spent on removing dangerous trees in 2021 or 2022.

“While Hawaii Electric deferred maintenance expenses, it maintained a dividend payment to shareholders four times annually,” the lawsuit adds.

Hawaii Electric Company is publicly traded. The share price fell in the wake of the fires, closing at $12.03 on Thursday. Turnover was three times higher Just a month ago.

The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages, including loss of personal property and real estate, loss of rental income, alternative living expenses and emotional distress.

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