Business

Court says Fitchburg residents may sue over 2008 power outage

Twelve residents and business owners in Fitchburg who lost power during a major ice storm in 2008 will be able to file a class action lawsuit against their gas and electric company for inadequate preparation and response, Worcester Superior Court Judge Richard T. Tucker ruled Monday.

The customers originally filed a lawsuit in January 2009 to hold Fitchburg Gas and Electric Light Co. accountable for what they believe was unfair business practices and negligence during the December 2008 storm that left 30,000 FG&E customers in the dark and in the cold waiting for the company to restore service in parts of Central Massachusetts, according to a statement from the plaintiff's lawyers. Some were left without power for weeks.

The plaintiffs unsuccessfully submitted a motion for class certification in late 2012, on behalf of others who had experienced similar damage.

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They appealed the motion with Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which affirmed the denial but, in October 2014, gave the plaintiffs an alternate route to class certification: the argument “that the plaintiffs paid for a certain level of preparedness, efficient restoration, and accurate information that FG&E unfairly and deceptively failed to provide.”

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With that advice, the plaintiffs successfully renewed their motion for class certification with the Worcester Superior Court this week. They will push the case to trial, accusing the company of violating the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act.

“The legal battle to hold FG&E accountable for their neglect of the customers in this region isn’t over yet,” said James L. O’Connor, of Nickless, Phillips & O’Connor, one of the lead attorneys for the customers, “but customers will now be assured of their day in court.”

The court has yet to schedule a pre-trial and trial date.

Alec O’Meara, spokesperson for Unitil, which is an affiliate of FG&E, said that the company’s attorneys are still going through the ruling to determine their next steps.

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“Throughout this process ... we do believe that the legal documents need to speak for themselves,” he said. “Any documents we file with the court is what we have to say.”

Karishma Mehrotra can be reached at karishma.mehrotra@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @missmishma.