Dave Rice 12:38 p.m., May 21
Class-Action Suit Alleges Negligence Caused Blackouts
Less than a week has passed since the lights came back on and a class-action lawsuit has already been filed against the utilities involved in the power outage spanning the afternoon of September 8 into the morning of September 9.
Antonino Busalacchi, a residential SDG&E customer, and Anis Ben Adj Yahia, proprietor of Baba Foods Inc., are named as plaintiffs representative of all similarly affected individuals and business owners who seek damages. They seek to define the plaintiff class as “All persons in San Diego County, Imperial County, Orange County, and Riverside County who were without power to their refrigerator for more than 4 hours on September 8 and September 9, 2011, as a result of the power outages caused by Defendants.”
Defendants listed are Arizona Public Service Company (an Arizona utility), Pinnacle West Capital Corporation (an Arizona provider of “electricity and energy-related products and holding company for Arizona Public Service Company), and San Diego Gas & Electric, along with “Does 1-100.”
A refrigerator kept closed can be expected to hold a temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for up to four hours in the result of power loss. Thursday’s blackout lasted approximately 12 hours. The USDA and FoodSafety.gov publish extensive lists of refrigerated items and frozen items that should be discarded if temperatures are allowed to rise.
Busalacchi claims to have been damaged by being forced to throw away “tuna, shrimp, chicken, eggs, lunch meats, bacon, sausage, dried beef, pizza, casseroles, blue cheese, brie, mozzarella, provolone, Romano, shredded cheese, and fresh fruits,” according to the suit. Yahia had to discard nearly $15,000 in humus, fruits, vegetables, baba ganouj, and tabouli, not including items that had been delivered to area Costco stores that sell his goods.
The main allegation of the suit is that Arizona Public Service Company was negligent in the operation and maintenance of its North Gila substation, and is thus responsible for any damages its negligence may have caused. It is alleged that an employee failed to follow proper protocol when carrying out a procedure which tripped a transmission line and caused the blackouts.
Arizona Public Service Company has admitted that, had proper protocol been followed, power loss in the event of an accident would have been limited to the Yuma area instead of spreading throughout the region.
Plaintiffs are asking for injunctive relief, asking the court to compel the utilities to broadcast public service announcements advising consumers that foods not discarded after the blackout may not be safe to eat. They also seek compensatory, statutory, and punitive damages to cover their estimated losses as well as impose a penalty on the utilities for their alleged negligence.