A North Carolina law firm is filing a lawsuit against the company that caused the mass Outer Banks blackout.
The Wallace and Graham law firm in Salisbury is working with lawyers in North and South Carolina to file a lawsuit against PCL Civil Constructors Inc., the company that damaged two main power lines providing electricity to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands during a peak vacation weekend.
The lawsuit was filed in Dare County Superior Court, according to Mark Doby, an attorney at Wallace and Graham.
PCL Construction, the company building the new Bonner Bridge, said that at about 4:30 a.m. Thursday its crews drove a steel casing into an underground transmission cable running between the south end of the bridge and the overhead riser pole, causing the outage.
Utility companies used existing generators and brought in others to provide power to the islands, leading to rolling blackouts. On Sunday and Monday, Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative said not one, but two of its transmission cables were cut by PCL, leaving thousands of residents and businesses without power and causing the mandatory evacuation of thousands more visitors. Even when power was restored to some areas using generators, residents were asked to limit electric use to prevent overload.
CHEC was working to repair those cables Monday. As of Monday evening, one of the cables had been spliced back together and CHEC was working to build a new overhead transmission line that will run from the south end of Bonner Bridge to meet an existing overhead transmission line.
The lawsuit is being brought on behalf of the affected individuals and businesses, according to a news release from Wallace and Graham.
Those suing include Briggs McEwan, whose local pizza and home rental business in Rodanthe is claiming to have lost thousands of dollars so far. Tami Lynette Gray, of Frisco, says her charter boating business also suffered significant losses.
“For people in the Hatteras and Ocracoke areas, this outage is causing significant harm,” said Mona Lisa Wallace, of Wallace and Graham. “We have moved quickly to seek to make our clients’ voices heard in this ongoing crisis and obtain judicial relief.”
The lawsuit names PCL Civil Constructors, headquartered in Raleigh, along with two PCL affiliate companies.
PCL’s work on the Bonner Bridge is a contracted $250 million project through the N.C. Department of Transportation to replace the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge across Oregon Inlet from Bodie Island to Hatteras Island.
The bridge spans nearly three miles. The lawsuit alleges that in order to win the contract, PCL claimed it could save $60 million or more by working under an accelerated schedule. The lawsuit claims that in the process of trying to proceed with the work, the power lines were cut.
“As a firm representing clients in the Outer Banks area, we can tell you that this power outage could not have happened at a worse time,” said Dennis Rose, of Rose Harrison and Gilreath law firm, one of the firms assisting in the suit. “We are getting calls from local residents and business owners who have been damaged in a variety of ways.”