WAILUKU, Hawai’i--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Maui Attorney Cynthia K. Wong filed lawsuits on behalf of six Lāhainā families impacted by the devastating and avoidable August 8th Lāhainā fires.
“Aloha mai kākou. I am honored and privileged to represent the makaʻāinana of Maui who have lost everything in the devastating Maui wildfires. It is my kuleana to ensure, on behalf of our Maui ʻOhana and lāhui, that the entities who were negligent and responsible for the losses be held accountable. I am saddened by this foreseeable tragic event that claimed the lives of so many and that continues to devastate Maui. Together, we will forge ahead, rebuild Maui, and honor all of our lost loved ones. Mahalo for entrusting me. Maui Nō Ka ʻOi!”
- Attorney Cynthia Wong
This is the first step toward rebuilding for these families who seek accountability from those whose negligence or malfeasance brought about the catastrophe. The fires were the predictable and preventable result of a perfect storm created by a breach of the public trust by county and state agencies, whose responsibility it was to develop and implement effective plans for warning and evacuating the Lāhainā community, and by the electric utilities which, despite the tragic history of utility-sparked wildfires, failed to put in place plans and means to deenergize power lines during red flag conditions and to maintain and fortify their electrical facilities. The result is the destruction of over 2,000 homes, apartments, and other structures and the deaths of at least 115 people. On this one-month anniversary of the fire, over 300 people are still missing.
The lawsuits seek to hold all parties accountable for the fires. This includes Maui’s electric utilities (Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc., Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc., Hawaii Electric Light Company, Inc., and Maui Electric Company Ltd), which failed to follow industry standards for protecting the public during red flag and drought conditions. Also included are the County of Maui and State of Hawai‘i, which failed to devise effective warning systems and evacuation plans despite knowing that the combination of red flag conditions and extended drought were a recipe for disaster. This is a tragic story where those entrusted with essential public services, such as providing electricity, and those tasked with having an emergency response and evacuation plan in place for the community combined to cause a disaster that was both predictable and preventable.
By filing suit today, the law firms of Cynthia K. Wong, Attorney at Law, LLLC, Bostwick & Peterson, LLP, and Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP, have combined their resources and talents to address these wrongs and to make sure this never happens again.
“Today is the first step forward for six Lāhainā families whose lives were irreparably harmed by the August 8 calamity that struck Maui. Their losses were a needless consequence of the combined failures of an electric utility company and the State and County officials who ignored basic principles of wildfire risk management and the necessary coordination of public notification and emergency response procedures to cause the deadliest fire in modern U.S. History.”
- Attorney Frank Pitre of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP
“The devastation wrought upon the people of Lāhainā was exacerbated by a fatally flawed response system, however, this disaster could have been entirely avoided if decades of warnings had been heeded and basic, widely used preventative measures had been implemented. We are going to do everything in our power to help the community rebuild and assure such a terrible thing will not happen again.”
- Attorney James Bostwick of Bostwick & Peterson, LLP
As alleged in the complaints, the Maui fire’s impact upon these families is as diverse and unique as the Lāhainā community. Plaintiffs include:
- Patrick Alexander, his partner Amber Sampson, and their two small children. Patrick and Amber lost their home in Lāhainā. One of their children—a seven-day-old baby—required medical treatment for smoke inhalation.
- Caitlin and Kevin Maratea and their six-month-old baby who lost their home and their scuba diving business in Lāhainā.
- Kimberly Cuevas-Reyes and her two minor children who lost their home and wireless telephone business in Lāhainā.
- Jacqueline and Jay Tefft also barely escaped the fire with their two-year-old toddler and four-month-old baby. They lost their home and ability to work because of the fire.
- Robert and Leneen Kron were separated from each other and their four children during the evacuation of Lāhainā. They eventually reunited, but they lost two homes in the fire.
- Abigal Cox and Michael Griffiths barely escaped the fire with their children (ages 10 and 7). They lost their home and two local businesses to the fire.
The lawsuits seek damages, including costs of rebuilding, compensation for the terror of having to escape from the fires, including for exposure to toxic smoke and embers and any resultant medical expenses, compensation for lost business income and wages, lost property value, and compensation for the distress, anxiety, uncertainty, and emotional pain of losing their homes and possessions in having to undertake arduous work of rebuilding.
Cynthia Wong is working with Hawai‘i and California attorney James Bostwick of Bostwick & Peterson and Frank Pitre of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP.
About Cynthia Wong
Cynthia is a Maui native and graduate of the Kamehameha Schools, the University of Pennsylvania (Bachelor of Arts), and the University of Hawaiʻi, Richardson School of Law (Juris Doctor). Cynthia has been recognized as one of the Best Lawyers in Hawaiʻi© by Honolulu Magazine every year since 2016, including having been recognized as “Lawyer of the Year” in 2023. She has also been recognized and named by Best Lawyers and U.S. News – Best Lawyers© and “Best Law Firms”© for personal injury and insurance litigation. She has been representing victims in Hawaiʻi since 1995.
About Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy (“CPM”)
CPM is the preeminent wildfire litigation firm in California. CPM has held public utilities accountable for their role in catastrophic wildfires including the Butte Fire (2015), North Bay Fires (2017), Thomas Fire (2017), Woolsey Fire (2018), Camp Fire (2018), Kincade Fire (2019), Dixie Fire (2021), Mill Fire (2022), and McKinney Fire (2022).
Frank Pitre has served on leadership committees for wildfire victims of the North Bay Fires (co-lead), Butte Fire, Camp Fire (co-lead), and San Bruno Gas Explosion (co-lead). Donald Magilligan is currently serving on the executive committee for the Dixie Fire cases pending in San Francisco Superior Court.
Following PG&E’s 2019 bankruptcy, Pitre was selected to serve on the Tort Claimants Committee, which represented the interests of individual wildfire victims before the bankruptcy court. He played a key role in securing $13.5 billion for victims of the North Bay Fires and Camp Fire. He then served as a member of the Trust Oversight Committee, which was established to compensate wildfire victims out of the Trust proceeds.
Pitre also served as lead counsel in the PG&E derivative litigation, which held the company’s officers and directors personally liable for their role in causing the North Bay Fires and Camp Fire. The officers and directors case settled for $117 million.
About James Bostwick
Held in high regard by his peers, Bostwick has earned widespread recognition from many invitation-only organizations: Inner Circle of Advocates, limited to the top 100 plaintiff trial lawyers in the U.S., and considered the most exclusive trial lawyer organization in the world; The International Academy of Trial Lawyers, a group limited to the Top 500 plaintiff and defense trial lawyers in the U.S.; American Board of Trial Advocates; and the Lawdragon Hall of Fame and top 500, all of which are based on peer selection. He’s been named to Best Lawyers in America© every year since its inception in 1983 and was named Best Lawyer’s Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2012, rated among the Top 4 Trial Lawyers by the California Bar Journal, and featured in Newsweek, Town and Country, and Forbes as one of America’s top trial lawyers. He has represented victims in Hawai’i since 1980.