Maui, HI – ATTORNEY ADVERTISING MATERIAL - Singleton Schreiber filed the first wrongful death lawsuit against Maui’s four main utility companies on behalf of the family of a man who suffered severe burns and smoke inhalation before ultimately passing away.
According to the complaint, 79-year-old Lawrenzo “Buddy” Mornaon Jantoc II passed away on August 8, 2023. He suffered second and third-degree burns on 90% of his body, including his face, head, neck, chest and abdomen. A father and grandfather, he lived in a complex for seniors called Hale Mahaolu Senior Complex when the Maui fires broke out. The fires moved aggressively through his town, surrounding his home, and trapping Buddy with no way to escape. He died as the result of his burns and smoke inhalation.
The suit was filed against Hawaiian Electric Industries, Hawaiian Electric Company, Hawaii Electric Light Company, and Maui Electric Company, holding these utilities responsible for Buddy’s death. The lawsuit blames the utilities for being negligent in how they handled their equipment and how they failed to prepare for the coming fire.
“Buddy was a pillar of his community and beloved by his family and friends,” said the firm's lead Hawaii attorney, Col Paul Starita, USMCR Ret. “His death wasn’t just senseless, it was preventable. With just a little common sense and proper maintenance of equipment, Buddy would be holding his grandchildren today.”
The complaint explains the timeline of both the fires and the days leading up to Buddy’s death. On Friday, August 4, the National Weather Service in Honolulu advised that Hawaii could experience “indirect impacts” from Hurricane Dora from August 7-9. Authorities were made aware of strong winds, dry weather and high fire danger.
“What our team has discovered throughout our investigations is that there was ample warning for the tragedy that occurred,” said Singleton Schreiber Managing Partner Gerald Singleton. “But warning is only relevant if the utility companies had properly prepared. Instead, their negligence led to Buddy’s death and the deaths of so many others.”
According to the complaint, on August 6 and 7, several warnings were posted on social media regarding red flag warnings, dry winds, and high gusts, all of which followed an unusual period of drought and low humidity. On August 8, the wildfire began to spread, destroying more than 11,000 acres, more than 2,700 structures, and to date, cost the lives of 115 people including Buddy. There are still 1,000 or so people missing.
“This is the first of many wrongful death cases where these utility companies are being held responsible for their behavior,” said Singleton Schreiber Hawaii attorney Julia Bryant. “This family wants answers, our community wants answers, and so far all we’ve seen is silence and finger pointing.”
The case is Lawrence Michael Janto C, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Lawrenzo Mornaon Jantoc II v. Hawaiian Electric Industries, Hawaiian Electric Company, Hawaii Electric Light Company, Maui Electric Company, Second Circuit Court of Hawaii, Case No. 2CCV-23-0000237.
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With over 200 employees, Singleton Schreiber has represented more than 12,000 victims of utility fires and has recovered over $2 billion in settlements and verdicts for its clients.
This is Advertising Material on behalf of Paul Starita (7624) and Julia Bryant (11594) of Singleton Schreiber, LLP.