Hawaiian Electric sees its first lawsuit

Shares of Hawaiian Electric fell more than 20 percent today after reports that the utility is considering restructuring as it faces numerous high-end lawsuits for its role in Maui’s disastrous wildfires. The company’s stock is down more than 73 percent thus far in 2023.

According to a CNN report, shares plummeted to 13-year lows on Monday after a class-action suit alleged that the Maui fires were caused by powerlines toppeled by strong winds. In a lawsuit strikingly similar to the Pacific Power class-action suit in Oregon, plaintiffs want the power company to bear financial responsibility for the deaths and destruction resulting from the utility’s failure to de-energize its powerlines despite ample warning by fire officials and weather experts about approaching extreme winds and related volatile dangers.

Hawaiian Electric“The past days have been devastating for Maui and all of Hawaii,” said Shelee Kimura, president and CEO of Hawaiian Electric. “We have seen human loss and devastation on a scale that’s difficult for our hearts and minds to process. Maui lost homes and businesses, places of worship and cherished historic places. My heart breaks over and over, alongside all of Hawaii, for the people, communities and aina of Maui.”

She added that the restoration efforts now under way are personal to the utility’s employees. “Hawaiian Electric will continue to be here in full force with hundreds of dedicated employees and partners from Maui, Oahu, Hawaii Island, Molokai, Lanai, and beyond. We are focused on restoring power to support our communities’ work to recover and build back.”

The lawsuit alleges that Hawaiian Electric Industries “chose not to deenergize their powerlines during the High Wind Watch and Red Flag Warning conditions for Maui before the Lahaina Fire started,” despite knowing the risks of igniting a fire in those conditions. At least two other lawsuits have already been filed against the company for its role in the fires that killed at least 111 people on the island and destroyed the town of Lahaina. That number is expected to rise, with as many as 1,000 people still missing.

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6 thoughts on “Hawaiian Electric sees its first lawsuit”

  1. My only question, is why was one person allowed to delay the diversion of necessary water supply due to a downstream “equity” issue in the face of a catastrophic wind driven fire.

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    1. https://www.civilbeat.org/2023/08/a-state-official-refused-to-release-water-for-west-maui-fires-until-it-was-too-late/

      “The dispute involved the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ water resource management division and West Maui Land Co., which manages agricultural and residential subdivisions in West Maui as well as Launiupoko Irrigation Co., Launiupoko Water Co., Olowalu Water Co. and Ha’iku Town Water Association. DLNR delayed releasing water requested by West Maui Land Co. to help prevent the spread of fire, sources familiar with the situation said.”

      No one wanted to be quoted for that story on civilbeat.org and the info is based on anonymous sources, so draw your own (very early) conclusions.

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  2. I think there’s enough blame to go around. Why was the land not restored to less-ignitable/flammable, native vegetation instead of just abandoning it. Should the first importers of the alien weeds be included in the suit? Should Dole dole out some $? Knowing that the risk of losing the town to fire, why didn’t the government DO something PROACTIVE to help the citizens with effective, on-site, automatic, ember interception and structure fire suppression equipment? And so on . . .

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  3. I think it is inconceivable that a for profit company can dodge responsibility for the devastation caused by faulty decision making. And this just keeps repeating.

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