RALEIGH, N.C. (CN) – People forced to leave their homes and island vacation rentals because of a power outage on North Carolina’s Outer Banks are demanding that a construction company reimburse them thousands of dollars for costs and missed memories.
PCL Civil Constructors Inc. won a bid in 2011 to repair a three-and-a-half-mile bridge connecting Bodie Island with Hatteras Island.
While working on the bridge on July 27, PCL’s employees reportedly drove a piece of steel casing into the ground, which punctured an underground power line and caused an outage on Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island.
The local government issued a mandatory evacuation on both islands, forcing locals and vacationers to leave. The order stayed in place until Friday.
Four Pennsylvania residents filed a class-action lawsuit against PCL last week in Wake County Superior Court, asserting claims of negligence and nuisance. The lawsuit aims to establish a vacation rental class and a homeowner class.
Jack Lewis owns a vacation home on Hatteras Island and specifically chose not to rent it the week of July 29 through August 5 because he was going to use it for his own family’s vacation. He says he ordered $1,000 worth of food to be delivered to the island for the vacation.
Lewis claims he lost over $10,000 from the power outage and evacuation because he had to instead rent a home in Virginia Beach and the food he ordered was lost.
Thomas and Nina Edgar rented a vacation home on Hatteras Island from July 23 through July 30 for $7,000 and lost power on July 27, according to the complaint. They’re seeking reimbursement from PCL for the vacation home based on the time without power and the evacuation, loss of use and inconvenience.
Edward Waas says he also rented a vacation home with his family on Hatteras Island during that time period for $3,000 and was forced to evacuate.
The plaintiffs claim that North Carolina law and the terms of their vacation rental deals entitled them to “uninterrupted use and enjoyment of their vacation rental properties for the duration of the term specified in the applicable vacation rental agreements.”
They are represented by J. Michael Malone of Raleigh-based Hendren, Redwine, and Malone.
PCL spokeswoman Stephanie McCay said it is company policy to not comment on “matters of prospective litigation.”
“We respect and defer to the adjudicative process, and will submit our positions when called upon in the appropriate forum,” she said.
Brian Holden – who is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit, but whose family was affected by the outage and evacuation – said in an interview there was no clear communication about the length of the evacuation.
The Holdens, who live in Annapolis, Md., booked a two-week vacation in the area: one week on Ocracoke Island and one week on Hatteras Island.
“We were on Ocracoke Island in a VRBO home when the evacuation occurred,” Holden said. “There was a real lack of communication regarding the severity of the cut and the length of time the evacuation would be. Ocracoke officials said if we’d stayed on the island, we’d face misdemeanor charges and up to $1,000 fine.”
Because Holden said he didn’t know how long the evacuation would be and he wasn’t hearing updates, he decided to take his family back home to Annapolis.
“It was the right decision to head home because it took a week longer to repair the damage,” Holden said. “I’m out $5,500 on my vacation property. We had no vacation and we missed out on the memories. My kids are only 6 and 2 for once in their lives.”
Since the evacuation, Holden says he created a Facebook page about the issue.
“Everyone was so mad at these realty companies and power companies. I started a Facebook page to aggregate this information and to seek how to get their money back,” he said.
“There’s a real lack of information and accommodations to the renters who are asking for the money back,” Holden added.
Holden says a power-outage claims form created by PCL has little to no information.
PCL’s McCay said, “Upon receipt of the form, a claims administrator will be in contact with individuals to begin the claims process.”
Helena Stevens, travel and tourism director for the Ocracoke Civil and Business Association, said area businesses “were very affected by the power outage.”