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'At what point is it your fault?' | Duke Energy customers seeking compensation after destructive power surge

Neighbors in Indian Land said hundreds and thousands dollars worth of appliances were fried by the voltage.

INDIAN LAND, S.C. — On Jan. 9, neighbors who live in the Silver Run and Glen Laurel subdivisions in Indian Land said they were hit with a major power surge that also turned out to be costly for many.

About 45 homes were impacted by the surge caused by an equipment failure, according to Duke Energy.

"Whatever we had on a LED circuit they all just had a crazy sound like all the glass was breaking even though the glass didn’t break and then the power went out and it surged back and forth," resident Mark Smets said.

Smets and others soon realized their home appliances including refrigerators, coffee makers, circuit breakers and more had all experienced damage -- costing hundreds and thousands of dollars in some cases.

Customers then reached out to Duke Energy seeking compensation. In return they say they received a letter from Sedgwick, a third-party company that helps Duke Energy process the claims, explaining why their claim had been denied.

Credit: Mark Smets

“In most instances claims are not paid on because unforeseen circumstances are not covered under the claim process," Duke Energy spokesperson Jeff Brooks said.

This includes circumstances out of Duke Energy's control like weather or a car hitting a power pole.

“Other incidents we do cover," Brooks said. "For example, if we caused an outage from work we were doing, they could file a claim and we would review that to see if it would qualify for reimbursement."

But in the case of an unexpected power surge, neighbors say they still don't agree with where the liability falls.

“We have to go back and ask Duke, 'At what point is it your fault?'" Smets said. "We had townhome owners where the breaker box caught on fire the voltage surge was so significant.”

Smets now plans to take his complaint to small claims courts. Neighbors can also try to file a claim with their insurance for the damage to their appliances.

Duke Energy said equipment and safety protocols are in place to help prevent power surges like this. WCNC Charlotte was told Duke Energy is also working to improve the power grid across the state. Duke Energy also offers surge plans to help better protect your home.

Contact Briana Harper at bharper@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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