Lawyer wary of contractor's proposed OBX settlement

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - It's been several weeks since the power outage on Ocracoke and Hatteras islands forced thousands of renters to shorten or forgo their vacations.

Since that time, people have been scrambling to get refunds either through travel insurance or some other way.

Some people are being offered refunds by the construction company that caused the outage, but at least one person who contacted CBS North Carolina about the situation says she is wary of the way it's being done.

For many who planned a vacation at the Outer Banks back in late July or early August, the cost was pretty hefty. It was top of the season and rentals were going for thousands of dollars.

Deborah Cohen says she's spent almost every day since her vacation was fouled up by the power outage trying to get her money back.

"My only interest is in getting my refund," says Cohen.

It cost Cohen just over $4,700 to rent a place in the Hatteras Island village of Avon from the end of July into the first week of August. But, the cable cut and mandatory evacuation of the island back on July 29 kept her and her family off the island.

"I did not purchase travel insurance." Cohen says. But the New York attorney says she believes that shouldn't matter because of the way the situation played out.

"I wasn't offered insurance that covered the event we are talking about, which was due to a third party's very unfortunate negligence," she said. Under the North Carolina Vacation Rental Act, she believes she is owed a refund.

Hatteras Realty is the firm that rented her the vacation house in Avon. Spokesman Steve Alessandrini told CBS North Carolina in an email that "Red Sky Travel Insurance has informed us that it would have covered her loss under the terms of its policy had she purchased insurance."

Cohen also filed a claim with PCL, the contractor which caused the outage. They've sent her a release document saying they'll cover her expenses, but she says she is wary of it.

"Unfortunately, I can't sign it, because the release says upon my signature, I acknowledge receipt of the money, and they have not forwarded me the money," Cohen explained.

Cohen is now asking PCL to amend the form to say it becomes effective upon receipt of funds that have cleared her bank account.

But, even with a potential payout by PCL, she remains frustrated with the rental company Hatteras Realty.

"It's Hatteras who undertook contractual obligations. They should not be the beneficiary of PCL's acting justly and stepping up to the plate," Cohen says. "It's not like I'm looking for a double recovery, I'm certainly not. But I'm not convinced PCL is legally responsible to me."

As she waits to see if she'll get her money back, she warns others to carefully scrutinize any settlement offers they get.

If you'd like to file a claim with PCL, as a business owner, resident or vacationer, the link is here.

Email CBS North Carolina's Steve Sbraccia if you have a consumer issue.

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