Residents sue cooperative for power outages during 2000 storm

Friday, April 26th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

McALESTER, Okla. (AP) _ Three Pittsburg County residents have filed lawsuits against a southeastern Oklahoma electric cooperative for power outages during the catastrophic December 2000 ice storm.

Larry Griffin is seeking $250,000 in damages from Kiamichi Electric Cooperative and a subcontractor, M and M Electrical Contractors of Kentucky.

Griffin, 57, alleges he was electrocuted while trying to reconnect electrical service to his house 10 days after the Christmas Day storm. Griffin said he was permanently disabled and disfigured when he tried to install a fuse on a power pole at his rural home.

He accused M and M, which Kiamichi hired to help restore power, of giving him the fuse and telling him he could reconnect the power himself without getting hurt.

Kiamichi and M and M have denied liability for Griffin's injury. Steve Bryan, chief executive officer for Kiamichi, was unavailable for comment on Thursday.

In its response to the lawsuit, Kiamichi said Griffin was among ``many, many other customers'' affected by the ice storm.

``This Defendant was engaged in a maximum effort to restore service to customers between the time of the storm and into January 2001.''

Kiamichi Electric also denies ``that its employees or representatives would have advised (Griffin), or any customers, that he or they could replace a power line fuse and not get hurt in the process.''

A Sept. 4 pretrial conference has been scheduled in the case.

Nearly 30 people were killed when the storm coated roads, trees and power lines for several days, leaving thousands in southeastern Oklahoma without power, some for weeks. The outages not only affected residences, but businesses and hospitals.

Utility companies brought in crews from across Oklahoma and other states to repair power lines and poles.

In the other lawsuit, Bobby and Wanda Yount of Crowder are seeking an unspecified amount over $10,000 from Kiamichi Electric and Verdigris Valley Electric Cooperative.

The Younts allege negligence in repairs and maintenance of an electrical system serving their home, which caught fire. An attorney for the Younts said the fire occurred because the electric companies didn't hook up a ``neutral connection'' after the ice storm.

The electric companies both blame the fire on either internal wiring of the house, or a microwave oven.