Preliminary approval granted of $10 million settlement in Outer Banks power outage case; Attorneys get up to $3.4 million

By Charmaine Little | May 23, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. (Legal Newsline) – Several businesses, vacationers and residents impacted by a major power outage have been granted preliminary approval of a $10 million class action settlement.

Judge James C. Dever III of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina granted the motion for preliminary approval of the settlement May 2.

The plaintiffs requested preliminary approval of a class action settlement after they consolidated six class action lawsuits against PCL Civil Constructors Inc. and PCL Construction Enterprises Inc. The settlement classes include the business class, the rental/vacationer class and the resident class.

The proposed settlement agreement creates a system in which each class will be rewarded cash payments. PCL was suggested to pay a total of $10.35 million; $8.1 million of the fund will be for the business class and $2.25 million for the rental vacationer and resident class. Attorneys' fees are not to exceed $3.4 million.

The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against PCL Civil Constructors Inc. and PCL Construction Enterprises Inc. in 2017 (PCL) over allegations of negligence, negligence per se, gross negligence, private nuisance, private claim for public nuisance and breach of contract.

PCL was working on a Herbert C. Bonner Bridge project via a $246 million contract with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) when PCL disconnected multiple power cables on the south portion of the bridge in 2017, the order states. 

The action caused power outages to the Outer Banks islands during the highest point of tourist season. The outage was so detrimental, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper called for a state of emergency and government organizations executed mandatory evacuations, Legal Newsline previously reported.

The district court determined the agreement “is within the range of possible final settlement approval, such that notice to the class is appropriate” after it discovered the agreement came after extensive negotiations, and an expert that determined class members who file claims will be able to retrieve all of their financial loss.

A final hearing on the settlement approval is scheduled Friday, Sept. 14.

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