Update: Utility Hawaiian Electric Faces Lawsuit Over Maui Wildfires
A class action lawsuit was filed against Hawaiian Electric on August 12, 2023, alleging that the utility’s downed power lines were one of the primary causes of the deadly Maui wildfires, according to Spectrum News [4.].
The suit further claims that Hawaiian Electric, which supplies 95% of Hawaii’s power, “inexcusably kept their power lines energized during forecasted high fire danger conditions.”
Four days before the blaze ignited, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued a warning which stated that Hawaii could experience “indirect impacts” from Hurricane Dora, including “strong and gusty trade wins” and “dry weather & high fire danger.”
NWS subsequently issued a Red Flag Warning for portions of the Hawaiian Islands, including West Maui. Despite Hawaiian Electric officials’ knowledge of these warnings, the company failed to shut off the downed lines, causing loss of life, serious injuries, destruction of hundreds of homes and businesses, displacement of thousands of people and damage to many of Hawaii’s historic and cultural sites, according to the lawsuit.
The complaint was filed on behalf of the victims and survivors of the Lahaina Fire against Maui Electric Company, Limited (“MECO”); Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc. (“HECO”); Hawaii Electric Light Company, Inc. (“HELCO”); and their parent company, Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc. (“HEI”).
What's the Problem?
The Maui fire kicked off on August 8, 2023, and took the island by surprise, racing through dry growth and leaving behind smoldering piles of rubble where historic buildings once stood. The blaze engulfed the island so rapidly that it left some residents with mere minutes to flee, even forcing some to jump into the ocean. The U.S. Coast Guard said crews had rescued 14 people who had jumped into the Lahaina harbor in an effort to escape the flames.
As of August 14, at least 96 people have died in the Maui wildfires, with officials warning that the death toll could rise dramatically in the coming days, according to ABC News [1.]. Officials also said that 271 structures had been damaged or destroyed and dozens of people had been injured. It is the deadliest fire since the 2018 Camp Fire in California, which killed at least 85 people and virtually destroyed the town of Paradise.
"These were large and fast-moving fires, and it’s only recently that we’ve started to get our arms around them and contain them," said Adam Weintraub, a spokesman for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. "So, we’re hoping for the best, but we’re prepared for the worst.”
What Caused the Maui Wildfire?
Due to a mix of land and atmospheric conditions that can create "fire weather," much of Hawaii was under a red flag warning for fire risk when the blaze erupted; however, the exact cause of the fire is still unknown.
"We don't know what actually ignited the fires, but we were made aware in advance by the National Weather Service that we were in a red flag situation — so that's dry conditions for a long time, so the fuel, the trees, and everything, was dry," said Major General Kenneth Hara, commander general of the Hawaii Army National Guard. "That, along with low humidity and high winds, set the conditions for the wildfires."
The powerful winds fanning the flames were generated by Hurricane Dora, which was moving across the Pacific Ocean hundreds of miles south of Hawaii when the fires started, according to the National Weather Service.
Dora, which has been classified as a Category 4 by the Central Pacific Hurricane Center, caused heavy wind gusts over 60 MPH that tore through Maui, knocking down power lines and damaging homes.
Additionally, significant differences in atmospheric pressure between Hurricane Dora and the air north of Hawaii formed a pressure gradient over the islands which, when combined with dry conditions, posed a serious threat of fires as well as damaging winds, according to the National Weather Service.
Maui Fires Burn as Death Toll Climbs, Over 1,000 Acres Scorched: FOX News Video
What Has Burned in Lahaina?
In the coastal town of Lahaina, dozens of homes and businesses have been flattened by the blaze, including on Front Street, where tourists gathered to shop and dine. Smoldering heaps of rubble lay piled high next to the waterfront, boats in the harbor were burned and gray smoke hovered over charred trees.
What is the Cause of Most Wildfires?
Nearly 85% of wildfires in the U.S. are caused by humans, according to the National Park Service [2.]. Human-caused fires are caused by campfires being left unattended, the burning of debris, equipment use and malfunctions, negligently discarded cigarettes, and intentional acts of arson.
How Can I Help Maui Fire Victims?
The Hawaii Community Foundation is using money donated to its “Maui Strong Fund” to assist those affected by the 2023 wildfires. Donations can be made through their online platform — there is a minimum online donation of $25. Click here [3.] to donate.
What to do if You've Been Harmed by the Maui Wildfires
If you or a loved one has suffered any of the following damages as a result of the 2023 Maui wildfires, you should contact the law offices of Schmidt & Clark, LLP, to learn more about your legal rights:
- Personal injury
- Emotional distress
- Property loss/damage
- Loss of employment
- Denial of insurance claims
Fill out the contact form below or call (866) 588-0600 to speak with our lawyers about your potential claim now.
Get a Free Maui Wildfire Lawsuit Evaluation With Our Lawyers
The Personal Injury Litigation Group at Schmidt & Clark law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in Maui Wildfire Lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting lawsuits in all 50 states.
Again, if you or a loved one was injured, experienced property loss, job loss, were denied insurance, or suffered other damages resulting from the 2023 Maui Wildfire, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a Maui Wildfire lawsuit and our lawyers can help you receive fair compensation.