T&D World Magazine

FPL Sued for Hurricane Wilma Blackouts

A Florida businessman has sued Florida Power & Light over Hurricane Wilma's massive blackouts, according to a Reuters story published Nov. 18. He is accusing the state's largest power company of gross negligence in failing to maintain power poles and other equipment.

The lawsuit, filed on Thursday in Broward County Circuit Court, seeks class-action status for the millions of people affected and alleges FPL, a unit of FPL Group Inc., violated a statutory duty to provide electricity, the Reuters story said.

Philip Freidin, the attorney representing Peter Rabbino, a Broward County resident, and his company, Legal Computer Consultants, Inc., said, "In our view of it, the hurricane is an act of God. The failure to prepare is an act of man."

An FPL spokeswoman said the company had not seen the lawsuit and had no comment, according to Reuters. The Miami Herald had reported FPL scrimped on tree-trimming, pole inspections and basic maintenance, slashing operating and maintenance costs per customer by 32% between 1991 and 2001.

The lawsuit primarily seeks an injunction to force FPL to properly maintain its system, Freidin said. It also asks for "consequential damages," which could include the costs a business faced because it was shut down due to a lack of electricity.

Reuters reported, however, that in an editorial-page response published in the Sun-Sentinel newspaper on Tuesday, FPL President Armando Olivera said: "The fact is, our service reliability is among the best in our industry and our maintenance programs are aggressive and effective."

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