LIPA, National Grid Sued By Breezy Point Residents Over Sandy-Burned Homes

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BREEZY POINT FIRE
In this Oct. 30, 2013 file photo, a fire fighter surveys the smoldering ruins of a house in the Breezy Point section the Queens borough of New York. About 120 home owners from the tight-knit Queens enclave are suing two utility companies for negligence. The lawsuit filed in New York on Tuesday, July 2, 2013, says the Long Island Power Authority and National Grid failed to stop energy from flowing to their homes despite industry standards during emergency weather events. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, | AP

One hundred and twenty more residents of Breezy Point have filed suit against LIPA and National Grid, alleging the companies' failure to turn off power to the area during superstorm Sandy led to fires that devastated the waterfront neighborhood.

It's the second set of suits filed in the case. Earlier this year, a law firm representing 18 residents filed suit against the utilities, making similar allegations. Another 20 residents have signaled their intention to file suit, bringing the total to 158.

The latest set of suits, filed in State Supreme Court in Queens, don't specify damages, but lawyer Keith Sullivan, of the firm Sullivan & Galleshaw, said claims are likely to exceed $80 million.

LIPA and National Grid, he charged, "chose to ignore safety protocol and endangered customers. They did not de-energize the grid to the Rockaways even though they knew a tremendous storm was coming."

But LIPA spokesman Mark Gross said, "The actions taken during Sandy were reasonable and appropriate, and we do not believe the claims have merit."

Much of Breezy Point, a waterfront Rockaway peninsula community, was leveled by fire in Sandy's wake, with more than 160 homes destroyed.

Dozens of Breezy Point residents in January filed notices of claim against LIPA, signaling their intent to file suit based on losses tied to fires they allege were electrical in nature.

Andrew Carboy, a lawyer at Manhattan law firm Sullivan Papain, said his firm filed the first set of Breezy Point lawsuits against LIPA, National Grid and others about two months ago. He said he has filed notices of claim for 20 others.

LIPA was also hit with a second set of lawsuits taking issue with its response to the storm throughout Long Island. Those separate claims have been consolidated in State Supreme Court in Mineola.

A National Grid spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sullivan said damages being sought in the latest suits would help residents rebuild homes -- efforts that have stalled, he said. "People haven't been able to rebuild yet," he said. "There's a whole quagmire they are stuck in." ___

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