Class action lawsuit filed against Entergy following power outages

Kyle Barnett Sep. 5, 2012, 3:31am

Tony Clayton

NEW ORLEANS – A Baton Rouge-based attorney has filed a class action lawsuit against a regional power provider for not restoring power to the area following Hurricane Isaac in a reasonable amount of time.

Tony Clayton filed suit on behalf of the proposed class against Entergy New Orleans and Entergy Louisiana in the Orleans Parish Civil District Court on Sept. 5.

In the wake of Hurricane Isaac that struck Southeast Louisiana on Tuesday, Aug. 28 the power was knocked out for 700,000 of Entergy's customers. Now eight days later some of those customers still have not had their power restored.

Clayton said lack of effort on Entergy's behalf to restore their customer's power is unreasonable.

"The suit revolves mainly around Entergy's restoration process," Clayton said. "It was unreasonable on their part with that much size in 2012 to have electricity out for seven to eight days with kids out of school and elderly at home in South Louisiana when it could have been avoided."

Clayton said Entergy was granted hundreds of millions of dollars after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005 to update its power grid and that the company successfully negotiated a 10 percent surcharge through the Louisiana Public Service Commission, the proceeds of which were to be used on preventative maintenance.

"A lot of the poles were broken, dilapidated, leaning or there were trees and limbs hanging over them that should have been trimmed and cut back," Clayton said. "They were just not prepared."

On Sunday, six days after the storm hit, other energy providers were reporting nearly 100 percent of their customers had their power restored while Entergy was reporting only 66 percent of their customers power had been restored.

Clayton said the problem was in the administration of work duties by management to workers, many of whom drove from out of state, on the ground.

"The restoration that they undertook was totally discombobulated," Clayton said. "We have evidence to show most of the trucks and workers when they got here were in parking lots with nothing to do because Entergy did not have direction for them when they got here. So it took days for them to assess what they had to tell these folks what they had to do. They were ill-prepared and it caused unreasonable delays in business activities and in just a daily sense of people's lives. What should have should have been a day or so without power extended to eight days of chaos because of Entergy being negligent in carrying out its duties."

Clayton said he hopes to have the class registered soon so he can begin the discovery process.

"The biggest problem I have with it is Entergy's CEO made the statement that the wind was the problem and there is nothing he can do about the wind," Clayton said. "Technically he's right. Customers are not entitled to a non-interruption in their electrical service. It's not a constitutional right to say your service should never be disrupted. What they are entitled to is a reasonable interruption."

Clayton is a partner at Port Allen-based Clayton & Fruge.

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