Looks as though Hawai’ian Electric Company is legally responsible for the Maui Wildfire. After all, it:
- Failed to de-energize power lines in areas with high winds and dry vegetation, even though it had a public power shutoff plan in place;
- Failed to maintain its power lines and equipment, which were in poor condition and prone to failure; and
- Failed to adequately warn residents of the fire danger.
The potential liability to survivors for causing the fire is in the billions of dollars. In addition to the lawsuits, HECO is also facing scrutiny from regulators and investors. The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission has opened an investigation into the fire, and the company’s stock price has fallen sharply.
These factors suggest it is more likely than not that HECO will file for bankruptcy protection.
If HECO does file for bankruptcy, it doesn’t mean that HECO will get off scot-free. Rather, it means that survivors’ claims against it will be heard in bankruptcy court, rather than a regular trial court.
PG&E file bankruptcy in California after causing a string of wildfires. More than 60,000 claims were made against it in bankruptcy. Thus far, survivors have been paid 60 cents on the dollar.
See our Maui Fires page for more information.