A group of New Orleans attorneys say they have filed a lawsuit against Entergy on behalf of New Orleans customers, accusing the power company of failing to properly maintain its distribution and transmission systems.
The suit claims that the plaintiffs constitute a class, and are requesting the court allow the suit to proceed as a class-action.
We reached out to Entergy; a spokesman says the company cannot comment on pending lawsuits.
In the suit, which the lawyers say was fax-filed this weekend, the plaintiffs allege that Entergy created a system that could not and would not sustain even a minor hurricane with wind gusts at or below 100 MPH. The suit alleges that Entergy made the decision to not invest in the underground transmission of electricity, which in an environment like Southeast Louisiana, could have assured regular, consistent, and sustained protected service to all their customers, not just in affluent neighborhoods.
Instead, Entergy chose "the bubble gum and super glue approach to protect their billions of dollars over the welfare of their customers, because Entergy knew that whatever damages were sustained during a storm could be quickly billed back to its customer base," the plaintiffs allege.
The plaintiffs claim that "Entergy’s greed and lies set the foreseeable stage for hundreds of thousands of people to be left without refrigeration, air conditioning, and in many cases sewerage problems." The company's "negligence also led to thousands of people not only sitting without lights; but, unable to learn what the storm and electric failure had wrought," the plaintiffs claim.
The plaintiffs listed in the suit include a dozen residents and three businesses.
“We are standing up for people and businesses who have been injured as a result of Entergy’s negligence and failure to transmit energy to its customers. From the families who have lost a freezer of food to businesses who have been shuttered as a result of power loss in hard hit communities, to those with serious injuries or hyperthermia-related wrongful death due to the power loss, our intent is that all Hurricane Ida-impacted residents are represented in this class action lawsuit," said Attorney Juan LaFonta.
The plaintiffs say that last year, the energy corporation reported a record $1.4 billion in profits. Despite a 2007 “Hardening Study" and 2016 “Resilience Plan” the Entergy Corporation systematically deferred maintenance on infrastructure, causing avoidable blackouts to nearly one million properties in Louisiana during the hurricane and subsequent days.
“Entergy has been keenly aware of the shortfalls in their infrastructure for over a decade,” said attorney Stuart Smith. “They knew their facilities were not sufficient to withstand severe weather, yet instead of upgrading their grid – like their study recommended and their plan outlined – they pocketed that money and sent all-time-high profits to their shareholders instead of protecting the health, welfare, safety, and lives of Louisiana residents.”
Smith says that eight out of 10 outages in Louisiana during the past five years are due to infrastructure issues. Entergy had been repeatedly fined over the past decade for deferred maintenance. A 2010 study by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability found aging infrastructure to be more susceptible to damage caused by severe weather and hurricanes, and wind damage in particular, he says.
The attorneys also cited the failure of Entergy New Orleans to turn on its New Orleans Power Station, built to serve a small number of customers in case of a grid failure; it was not turned on until three days after Ida hit the area.
Here's a copy of the suit, provided by the attorneys: