- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Utilities will be restored for people with serious medical conditions in about two dozen Rhode Island homes, just in time for Thanksgiving, the Rhode Island Center for Justice said Wednesday.

National Grid agreed in state court to restore utilities to homes that are designated as medically protected, lost service within the past 120 days and were still shut off, according to the center’s executive director, Robert McCreanor.

The center has identified 25 homes but believes more than 80 could fit in this category.

The nonprofit is suing National Grid and the state’s Division of Public Utilities and Carriers over procedures for shutting off the utilities of low-income and medically vulnerable individuals.

McCreanor called the agreement, reached after three days of hearings, “a major victory.”

National Grid, in a statement, said the case remains open and the company is working toward a final resolution.

“In the meantime, we have taken a good faith step as part of our work with the Center for Justice and agreed to restore service to a number of medically protected customers,” National Grid said. “Turning off service to a customer is the very last, reluctant step National Grid takes in a long process to work with customers who are having difficulty paying their utility bills.”

Nicole Cruz, of Providence, said her gas will be restored after a three-month outage because of the agreement. Her mother, who lives with her, has cancer and several ailments, she said.

“It made my Thanksgiving and my Christmas,” Cruz said at the courthouse. “I’m just so glad it’s going back on and I can live somewhat of a normal life again.”

McCreanor said the parties expect to return to court in January to argue over other aspects of the case. The center is suing on behalf of five named plaintiffs but has asked a judge to certify their cases as a class action.

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