Hawaii, Maui sued by victim’s family for gross negligence in deadly wildfires

Maui children face grief, destruction as schools start up after wildfire

Views from the air of the community of Lahaina after wildfires driven by high winds burned across most of the town several days ago, in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, U.S. August 10, 2023. REUTERS/Marco Garcia/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights

Sept 5 (Reuters) – The father of a woman who died during last month’s wildfires in Hawaii has sued the state and the county of Maui in a “first-of-its-kind” lawsuit accusing the governments of gross negligence leading to the blazes.

Filed on Monday in Hawaii state court, the lawsuit is the first stemming from the wildfires to be lodged against the state. It also names the state’s electric utility Hawaiian Electric (HE.N), which is already facing several lawsuits, and a major landowner on the island, Bishop Estate, over the fires that razed the historic town of Lahaina in Maui.

The lawsuit, filed by Harold Wells on behalf of his 57-year-old daughter and her estate, alleges that risk of wildfires were well-known to the defendants and that the fires were preventable. Measures that would have reduced the risk, including proper vegetation and electrical grid management were not taken by the defendants, Wells argued.

Large landowners, including the state, county and Bishop Estate, had a duty to reduce wildfire risk by regularly clearing dry vegetation in the area but failed to do so, the lawsuit claimed. Hawaiian Electric, meanwhile, failed to deenergize its electrical equipment during high winds, sparking the fires, the lawsuit said.

Representatives for the defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Reporting by Clark Mindock, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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