Could the death of an 11-year-old bankrupt power company ERCOT?
Following record-breaking freezing temperatures in Texas last week, the state power providers Electric Reliability Council of Texas, otherwise known as ERCOT, have been hit with a $100 million lawsuit. Filed by one of ERCOT’s customers, they accused the company of gross negligence after a child died in what his family believed was from hypothermia when their mobile home lost their electricity & heat during the cold days.
The heartbreaking story
Eleven-year-old Cristian Pineda passed away in his family’s mobile home in the suburbs of Conroe in Houston, Texas, on Tuesday. Pineda was sleeping in a bed with his three-year-old younger brother under a pile of blankets, trying to stay warm in record-breaking freezing temperatures without heat & electricity.
The lawsuit against ERCOT and Entergy stated: “Despite having knowledge of the dire weather forecast for at least a week in advance, and the knowledge that the system was not prepared for more than a decade, ERCOT and Entergy failed to take any preemptory action that could have averted the crisis and were wholly unprepared to deal with the crisis at hand”.
Maria Pineda, Cristian’s mother, filed the wrongful death lawsuit in Jefferson County District Court, in which ABC News reported she accused they “‘put profits over the welfare of people’ by ignoring previous recommendations to winterize its power grid, which sustained an epic failure last week and left more than 4 million customers without heat and electricity as temperatures in some parts of the state plunged to single digits”.
Maria Pineda recalled to Houston Chronicle that her son, sixth grader Cristian, spent the day before his untimely death playing in the snow for the first time in his life. According to the lawsuit, she found her son unresponsive the next day and called 911 while attempting CPR. Just two years ago, the young boy had migrated to the United States with his family.
The Pineda family say the child froze to death, but ABC News reported that “the official cause of death is pending the results of an autopsy, according to the Conroe Police Department”. ABC News also stated that as of Sunday, over thirty people have passed in Texas due to the severe weather, “including many from carbon monoxide poisoning after people used cars or generators to keep warm during the massive power outage”.
Tony Buzbee, the attorney for the Pineda family working on the lawsuit against ERCOT, told ABC News he currently represents seven families who have lost their loved ones due to the freezing weather from the past week. More lawsuits will continue to be filed against the company.
Buzbee informed ABC News: “This is a young man who died for no reason other than corporate decisions. There are a lot of decisions that were made a long time ago that led to the death of this young man. That is unacceptable. Cristian’s lawsuit is the first and his lawsuit should be the first. This kid is going to change Texas and God bless him for that”.
The lawsuit stated that the power was turned off by ERCOT for those most vulnerable to the freezing temperatures and read: “Hence, there were images of empty downtown Houston office buildings with power, but the Pineda’s mobile home park was left without power”. The document blamed the company for misleading customers by telling them the rolling blackouts were temporary.
The lawsuit read: “The blackouts instead lasted days. The failure to adequately inform Plaintiffs of the length of the blackouts prevented them from properly preparing for the lack of power, or leaving the area. Accurate information might have saved Cristian Pineda’s young life”. Because of the outage, the Pineda family was left without power & heat for two days while temperatures dropped as low as ten degrees during that time.
ERCOT announced in a statement that they have not yet reviewed the lawsuit but “will respond accordingly once we do”. The statement also proclaimed: “Our thoughts are with all Texans who have and are suffering due to this past week”.