Maui County on Thursday sued Hawaiian Electric (NYSE:HE) for damages over the deadly wildfires that have claimed more than100 lives and resulted in billions of dollars in estimated property losses.
Hawaiian Electric’s stock fell 6% in extended trading on news of the lawsuit. The electric utility said it will suspend its quarterly dividend beginning in the third quarter to free up cash to help rebuild and restore power in the wake of the fires.
Those shares began Friday trading down $2.49, or 21%, to $9.38.
Maui County’s attorneys said Hawaiian Electric inexcusably left its powerlines energized despite a warning from the National Weather Service that high winds from Hurricane Dora and drought conditions created a high fire risk.
The wildfires reduced the historic town of Lahaina to ruins in the deadliest blazes in the U.S. in more than a century and the worst disaster in Hawaii state history. At least 115 people have died and more than 1,000 are still missing.
Hawaiian Electric issued a statement on the day the fires broke out that 30 utility poles had been knocked down in West Maui, the region where Lahaina is located.
Maui County said the death and destruction could have been avoided had Hawaiian Electric shut off power. The county cited initial estimates from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that it will cost more than $5 billion to rebuild Lahaina.