Puerto Rico’s power authority LUMA can’t seem to keep the lights on, and now it’s the target of a lawsuit by four corporations who want $310 million in damages.
LUMA took over the island’s power distribution in 2021, and it’s already facing its first major lawsuit from several big food companies who say an outage in early April caused financial losses. The four corporations—MultiSystem Restaurant, Wendco of Puerto Rico, Apple Caribe, and Restaurant Operators—manage several restaurant chains on the island colony, including Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and Applebees. They’re asking for $310 million in damages, which is an estimate of how much these chains lost during the outage, NBC News reported.
The blackout in question began on April 6 after a fire at the Costa Sur power plant caused the largest power outage on the island this year so far. A day later, about a million people were without electricity, and more than 100,000 people had no running water (including this author’s aunt, who said that week felt like living in the 1940s). It took LUMA about four days to restore power to those customers.
The days of darkness cost the island’s economy up to $500 million, El Nuevo Dia reported, and businesses weren’t the only ones who felt the lasting effects. Island residents protested outside LUMA offices in San Juan and threw bags of food that spoiled inside unpowered refrigerators.
Earlier this year, several U.S. federal agencies announced a plan to try to fix Puerto Rico’s energy grid alongside a transition to renewable energy. With hurricane season just beginning, people on the island are bracing for potentially more blackouts this year. After Hurricane Maria in 2017, parts of the island were without power for a devastating 11 months.