Class Action Suit Filed Against Entergy for Alleged Gross Negligence

Louisiana National Guard” by The National Guard is licensed under CC BY 2.0

On behalf of nearly 1 million Hurricane-Ida impacted residents and business owners, a group of four lawyers filed a class action lawsuit Saturday in Orleans Parish Civil District Court against Entergy Corporation, Entergy New Orleans LLC and Entergy Louisiana LLC. The suit alleged that the blackouts that occurred following Hurricane Ida were due to the company’s failure to maintain its distribution and transmissions systems despite ratepayer increases for such action.  

The Honorable Judge Rachel Johnson will hear the case which was filed by Stuart Smith (of Counsel) and Andrew Jacoby of Cooper Law Firm, Juan LaFonta of Juan LaFonta and Associates, and Jack Harang of the Law Offices of Jack Harang. Individuals who would like to join the class action should call 504-323-6049.

“We are standing up for the people and businesses who have been injured as a result of Entergy’s negligence and failure to transmit energy to its customers,” said attorney Juan LaFonta. “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 suit,” he continued.

Last year Entergy reported a record $1.4 billion in profits. Despite a 2007 “Hardening Study” and 2016 “Resilience Plan,” Entergy systematically deferred maintenance on infrastructure, causing avoidable blackouts to nearly one million properties in Louisiana during the hurricane and subsequent days.

Attorney Stuart Smith commented that Entergy has been keenly aware of the shortfalls in their infrastructure for more than a decade. “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 explained.

Entergy created a system that “could not and would not” sustain even a minor hurricane with gusts at or below 100 MPH. According to the lawsuit, 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. As in past storms, Entergy knew that whatever damages were sustained to the grid during the storm could be quickly billed back to its customer base.

“Entergy’s greed and lies set the foreseeable stage for hundreds of thousands of people to be left with refrigeration, air conditioning, and in many cases sewerage problems,” the suit’s lawyers allege. Entergy negligence also led to thousands of people sitting without lights and at the same time unable to learn the impact of the storm and electric failure.

“Eight out of 10 outages in Louisiana during the past five years are due to infrastructure issues, said Smith. Entergy has frequently been fined during the last 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.

“The Entergy corporation knew of the deficiencies in their infrastructure yet failed to act upon them,” said attorney Harang, citing the companies’ claims that their transmission system could withstand 140 MPH winds. They also claimed that its River Tower, which carried transmission to 216 substations and fell into the Mississippi River during the hurricane had no structural issues as of last year. Harang called both those situations “gross negligence.”

The legal team also blames Entergy for failing to quickly turn on its New Orleans Power Station and for the costs associated with long-term power outages for homes and businesses including mold and mildew in buildings, loss of food, the costs of relocation and the stress of dealing with these losses and dislocations.

Among the Plaintiffs in the case are Anthony J. Stewart, Diane Raley, Tomika Jordan, Sheena Altine, Tyelga J. Kearney, Phyllis Banks, Ryan Cooper, Roslyn Robert, Chrishante Ruffin, Joyce Watkins, Jason Tullos, Randolph H. Gonzales, Jr, 516 St. Phillip, LLC., Merch Dat, LLC, Carnival Collectibles, LLC, William A Myers, Jr. and William A Myers, III.

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