By Connie Leinbach
Attorneys handling the recently approved $10.35 million class-action lawsuit settlement with PCL Constructors from last summer’s week-long power outage will be on Ocracoke for a community meeting in the Community Center from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 16.
Robert Zaytoun of Raleigh and Steve Lacy of New Bern will conduct the meeting and answer questions.
The power outage occurred last July 27 after PCL crews severed power cables while working on the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge replacement project, leaving the Hatteras and Ocracoke islands without the main power source.
A state of emergency ordered by Gov. Roy Cooper and Hyde and Dare counties ordered mandatory evacuations of all visitors on both islands. Although the islands were powered for residents with temporary generators, owing to the uncertainty of the restoration many vacationers had canceled their planned trips in the weeks beyond Aug 3 when full power came back.
The outage caused great economic hardship since it occurred during peak tourist season.
PCL quickly set up an online compensation process through a third party, Crawford & Co. Six class-action lawsuits and some individual lawsuits were also filed. These lawsuits were consolidated in U.S. District Court last October.
While many islanders, both individuals and businesses, have already received compensation for lost revenue through Crawford, Zaytoun said in a letter to clients that those who had not made claims can still do so.
“We have negotiated a favorable contract with Crawford to continue the claims evaluation process,” he said.
Ocracoke businesses may be eligible to receive a lump sum of up to $2,500, possibly more.
According to the court order signed May 2 by U.S. District Court Judge James C. Dever III, “Business class members that submit a timely business claim form may receive a $2,500 payment upon proof of a valid business tax identification number at the time of the outage and a sufficient written statement of the economic loss incurred.”
However, businesses who want more than $2,500, “may submit documentation of proof of loss (but) recovery in excess of $2,500 is not guaranteed.”
The website www.obxsettlement.com is now live, currently informational only, promising to update soon, for businesses, vacationers, vacation property owners or residents of Ocracoke and Hatteras islands to submit claims.
Rental/vacationer and residents are not eligible for this minimum payment but may also submit a claim, but those amounts are to be determined.
In the lawsuit, the proposed settlement class consists of approximately 300 businesses, 475 to 1,500 vacation rental properties, and 1,000 residential properties.
Hyde County is exempted from the class action because Hyde County Manager Bill Rich said the county did not lose any revenue.
The court is scheduled to hold a final hearing to decide whether to grant final approval at 2 p.m. on Sept. 14.