NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — A local attorney has filed two class-action lawsuits on behalf of eight residents and three businesses affected by the Aquidneck Island natural gas outage.
Lawyer Brian Cunha of Brian Cunha & Associates filed the lawsuits Monday in Newport Superior Court against National Grid and Enbridge,a Canada-based natural gas supplier.
“They’ve all lost income, they’ve all lost money. Heating bills, electrical… all of that has to be compensated,” Cunha said of the residents and businesses impacted by the week-long outage.
National Grid said a dramatic drop in pressure from its transmission system, Algonquin Gas Transmission Co., forced them to suspend service to thousands of customers in Newport and parts of Middletown. The gas outage affected more than 10,000 people at its peak and left residents without natural gas for a week.
In the lawsuit, the residents are seeking compensatory damages and inconvenience damages in connection with negligence, breach of expressed and implied warranties and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
“People in Newport need to be compensated, this wasn’t their fault,” Cunha said. “This was a negligence issue.”
Cunha is also representing three businesses that were impacted by the natural gas outage. The businesses are seeking compensatory damages for lost income, property damage and other damages related to the loss of gas service.
The lawsuits claim the residents and businesses “…suffered a loss of their home and business, as a result of which the Plaintiffs incurred medical expenses, incurred great mental anguish and suffering and suffered an impairment in their enjoyment of life, which damages are continuing in nature.”
One of the residents who has signed onto the lawsuit is Patrick Kennedy, who said his business on Thames Street was among those without gas last week.
“We thought the initial response was slow Monday, trying to get information was impossible,” he said. “My personal experience with the call centers was a disaster.”
Kennedy said his tenants had to temporarily relocate and he was forced to shutter the bar he runs for several days. He said he’s still calculating how much money he lost.
“A couple thousand, maybe more, fortunately we didn’t lose the pipes but we were out of luck here for a week,” he said.
Cunha said the next step is a hearing in court and if the judge allows the lawsuit to move forward, anyone who is eligible to sign onto the suit will receive a letter instructing them on how to do so.
National Grid spokesperson Ted Kresse released a statement on behalf of the utility company, stating they do not comment on ongoing legal cases.
“Our main focus remains on the restoration of those customers impacted by the gas supply interruption on Aquidneck Island and helping them move forward,” Kresse said.
National Grid has promised to reimburse residents for any expenses incurred as a result of the outage. Both the utility company and the state have offereed temporary assistance to small businesses as well.
“I did see Gina Raimondo today saying they’re going to put some money up,” Cunha said. “But it wont be enough, so you really have to go this route.”
Eyewitness News also reached out to Enbridge for comment but did not immediately hear back.