Power surge fries homeowners electronics, Duke Energy won’t pay up on claims

Duke Energy says the surge was caused by an equipment failure but now the company is refusing to cover the cost of the damage.
Dozens of homeowners in Indian Land are frustrated after being left to pay for thousands of dollars of personal belongings damaged in their homes
Published: Feb. 7, 2022 at 5:16 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 7, 2022 at 7:04 PM EST
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INDIAN LAND, S.C. (WBTV) - Dozens of homeowners in Indian Land are frustrated after being left to pay for thousands of dollars of personal belongings damaged in their homes after a power surge.

Duke Energy says the surge was caused by an equipment failure but now the company is refusing to cover the cost of the damage.

The homeowners reached out to WBTV for help sharing their story.

In Silver Run and Glen Laurel, dozens of homeowners say they experienced a power surge on January 9th.

“It literally sounded like somebody was shooting guns right outside my back door and I started screaming,” Nicole Scottie told WBTV.

Laurel Castano said they started smelling smoke and found a small fire on one of their surge protectors.

“We were panicked. I was screaming. He was screaming. I was looking for my fire extinguisher,” Castano said.

The jolt of electricity ended up frying many of their valuables.

Homeowners told WBTV about broken equipment including a refrigerator, an oven, motherboards for AC and heating units and even a broken hot tub.

Their electricity is provided by Duke Energy and as quickly as they started calling to find out what happened, the homeowners said Duke employees told them they could file a claim to be reimbursed for their losses.

“The one of the lineman said this was our fault,” one homeowner said.

“You just file a claim with Duke and they’ll take care of it.”

“I didn’t ask for it, he initiated and he said, ‘oh, we’re going to take care of it’,” another homeowner said.

Claims for losses are processed by a company called Sedgwick but a representative for Duke told WBTV the ultimate decision about whether to reimburse customers rests with the power company.

All of the homeowners had their claims denied, even though the letter from Sedgwick admitted the problem was caused by an “unforeseeable equipment failure” on Duke’s grid.

WBTV interviewed Jeff Brooks with Duke Energy. Brooks said that Duke employees should never have told customers that the claims would be paid, and that Duke typically does not cover losses from unpredictable outages, even when it’s the company’s own equipment failure.

“Certainly, we’re going to work to understand why that equipment failed,” Brooks told WBTV.

“How many claims does that leave that you actually pay out on?” a reporter for WBTV asked Brooks.

“There are still some claims that occur due to a variety of things. If it was an error on Duke Energy’s or part of something that that was installed incorrectly,” Brooks said.

“This sounds like an error on Duke Energy,” the WBTV reporter said.

“Well, what it is, is it’s a failure of a piece of equipment,” Brooks said.

Duke ultimately told homeowners they would cover the cost of service calls but not pay for any of the actual damage or replacement items.

“We’re still in a pandemic, a lot of us have been out of work. We still have to pay our electric bill, so why shouldn’t they honor these claims?” homeowner Larry Hactcher said.

On Duke’s website the company lists power outage claims they typically would not cover like incidents caused by weather, negligence of a third party like a driver hitting a power pole or damage caused by animals.

It does not mention anything about not covering losses caused by their own equipment failure.

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