State Watch

Cable TV, phone companies share responsibility for Maui disaster, lawyers say

Lawyers for Lahaina, Hawaii, residents and business owners are accusing cable TV and telephone companies of sharing responsibility for the Maui wildfires because they allegedly overloaded and destabilized some power poles, The Associated Press reported. 

The lawyers from LippSmith LLP, who have filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric, paid a visit to the warehouse where the utility company keeps power poles and electrical equipment, according to the news service.

The lawyers said the cables were attached to the poles in a way that put too much tension on them, causing them to snap in the winds Aug. 8, when the fire ripped through Lahaina. At least 115 people were killed and more than 2,000 structures were damaged.

“In a disaster of this magnitude, it takes some time for all the potentially responsible parties to come into focus and be brought into court. Our investigation thus far shows a constellation of many serious failures that together led to this horrible tragedy,” MaryBeth LippSmith, co-founder of the firm, told the AP.

Lawyers said they observed no slack in the cable TV or telephone lines in photos of the power lines before the fires, adding that over-tensioning and the uneven distribution of weight may have caused the poles to lean more.

Charter Communications, which owns cable TV provider Spectrum, declined to comment to the AP.

Hawaiian Electric, whose power poles have been accused of igniting the flames that started the wildfires in Maui, took responsibility for its power lines for starting the first fire on Aug. 8, but it blamed the firefighters for declaring the fire contained and leaving the area only to have a second fire break out nearby.

The lawsuit is also taking aim at private and state landowners who allegedly did not keep the highly flammable vegetation maintained, which could have made the fire spread more quickly, the news service noted.

Tags Maui fires