Maui Wildfire Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against State and Local Government, Power Companies

Lawsuit accuses the County of Maui, State of Hawaii, Maui Electric Company, Hawaiian Electric and others of negligence, leading to deadly wildfire that claimed life of 57 year old woman.

The father of a woman who burned to death in the Maui wildfire has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against local and state authorities, as well as local power providers, indicating that their negligence contributed to the loss of his daughter.

Rebecca Rans was one of at least 115 people who died last month during wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Her body was found, along with her boyfriend Doug Gloege, near her house in Lāhainā  Hawaii, shortly after the fires. Both are believed to have burned to death.

Harold Dennis Wells filed the wrongful death complaint (PDF) on September 4 in Hawaii state court, presenting claims on behalf of himself and the heirs of Rebecca Rans. The lawsuit names the County of Maui, the State of Hawaii, Maui Electric Comp0any, Hawaiian Electric Company, and a number of individuals as defendants.

The Maui wildfires began on August 8, resulting in widespread death and devastation. While authorities indicate that they have recovered all of the bodies that could be found after the catastrophic fire in Lāhainā, many individuals are still missing and a growing number of families are now beginning to pursue Maui wildfire lawsuits against parties responsible for the uncontrolled blaze.

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According to the lawsuit, Wells indicates the fire that killed his daughter, and dozens of others, was the result of the defendants’ actions, or lack thereof.

Rans, 57, lived in Lahaina for 23 years before her death on August 8. She lived there for the last 12 years with Gloege, and she was reported missing on August 11, by her sister, Kathleen Hendricks.

The family was informed of her death on August 19, after the body had been identified. However, the FBI indicated that her body was so badly burned that the remains should not be viewed, and she was identified by a gold bracelet.

“Her left slipper was on and it was clear she perished trying desperately to escape the Lahaina Fire, which had already engulfed her home,” the lawsuit states. “The agents made it very clear that she had suffered an excruciating death.”

Negligence Resulted in Maui Wildfire

The lawsuit notes there were similar wildfires in the same region in 2018, but claims local and state government did nothing to curtail the risk, which Wells claims were predictable. In addition, the electric utilities failed to upgrade their infrastructure; all of which contributed to the fire, the lawsuit claims.

“For years, as Maui continued to get drier and hotter, the spread of invasive, non-native, flammable grasses and brush vegetation too over the island, the electrical system continued to decay, and the potential for increased fires originating in and/or fueled by these grasslands was actively discussed among government officials, utilities, and informed academics, and was well-known to owners of such grasslands,” the lawsuit states. “The combination of weather, uncontrolled vegetation and aging electrical infrastructure created a tinderbox ready to explode in Maui.”

Well’s lawsuit presents claims of negligence, private and public nuisance, inverse condemnation, strict liability, and seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

Hawaiian Electric has denied it still had power running through the lines during the fire.


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