National Grid’s response to a lawsuit filed against it and the Long Island Power Authority is a slap in the face to the individuals who lost their homes or businesses in a blaze that devastated Breezy Point during Hurricane Sandy, the attorney for the 120 plaintiffs said this week.
National Grid and LIPA filed a motion at the end of September to dismiss an $80 million lawsuit that alleges the companies’ failure to de-energize the power grid to the Rockaway peninsula before Hurricane Sandy hit last October caused one of the worst residential fires in the city’s history. Additionally, National Grid said in a further response to the lawsuit that it blamed the Breezy Point homeowners for the inferno that consumed about 150 homes.
According to National Grid’s filing, “if the plaintiffs suffered…such injuries were caused by their own negligence, wholly or partially.”
The plaintiffs’ attorney Keith Sullivan, a lawyer with the firm Sullivan and Galleshaw, LLP, which filed the lawsuit in Queens Supreme Court in July, said the company’s statement is not only ludicrous, it’s wildly offensive to the individuals who had their livelihoods wiped out in a fire that was not reached in time by firefighters because of flooding during the storm that wreaked havoc throughout much of New York City.
“They’re blaming helpless victims,” said Sullivan, who lives in Rockaway. “It was shocking to see that.”
“National Grid is the one that maintains and distributes the electricity, they chose to pump electricity during the storm, and they’re going to blame the homeowners?” Sullivan continued. “ti’s highly insulting.”
In its filing, National Grid also argued that it should be immune from prosecution because it is a government agency – and that LIPA should too because it is a private company hired to do work on behalf of National Grid.
Sullivan and those involved in the lawsuit have said they hope the $80 million in damages could be used to help residents return to homes and businesses.
“No one’s looking to make money off this lawsuit,” Billy Heeran, who owned the beloved Harbor Light Pub, said in a previous interview. “We just want to get our business back, our homes back. We shouldn’t have to take out another mortgage for that. My dad worked his whole life to pay this off, and now we’re back to square one?”
Sullivan said the suit is not only an attempt to secure dollars for residents who hemorrhaged money in the wake of the hurricane, but aims to “restore these folks – to make them whole.”
“What can never be brought back is the memories that lived in those houses – the photographs of grandparents now passed on, family heirlooms – the intangibles, we’ll never get those back,” Sullivan said in a prior interview.
“But this is to make sure justice is serviced – this was an injustice,” he continued. “This was an avoidable travesty.”
Now that National Grid and LIPA have responded to the lawsuit, Sullivan said he plans to oppose the motion to dismiss and oral arguments on it will likely happen before a judge in about two months.
By Anna Gustafson