Docket number 2021-09733, in the 11th District Court, Harris County, Texas
Watts Guerra LLP, Fears Nachawati PLLC, and Parker Waichman LLP, three national law firms that have long fought to protect the rights of victims injured by the wrongdoing of large corporations, filed a wrongful death lawsuit on February 22, 2021 against Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Inc. (“ERCOT”) and CenterPoint Energy, Inc. in District Court, Harris County, Texas on behalf of Linda Brown, a Harris County resident and the daughter of Doyle A. Austin, also of Harris County. Mr. Austin died in his home of hypothermia as a direct result of the power outage, which deprived him of heat during the frigid temperatures associated with Winter Storm Uri. The lawsuit alleges that failures by ERCOT and CenterPoint Energy, Inc. to anticipate increased energy demand during the storm and weatherize and update their facilities resulted in the rolling blackouts which left millions of Texans, including Mr. Austin, without power for days.
According to the Complaint, Mr. Austin lost power in the evening of Sunday, February 14, 2021. As a result, his home had no heat for two days, even as temperatures dropped to eleven degrees in Houston. Mr. Austin’s daughter found him Tuesday evening, unresponsive in his bed. Paramedics were unable to revive him. The lawsuit seeks damages for Mr. Austin’s physical pain and mental anguish before his death, punitive damages and more on behalf of his surviving heirs.
The lawsuit lays out a startling string of allegations. The action claims that ERCOT and CenterPoint, as well as other companies involved in the management of power in Texas, failed to anticipate increased energy demands and increase electric production capacity in Texas in advance of the February 2021 winter storm, though similar events have happened repeatedly in recent years. The Complaint also alleges that defendants should have weatherized and updated their generation, transmission, and distribution facilities in order to prevent cold-weather power failures such as this one, but consciously chose not to do so.
This cold weather event and its effects on the Texas energy grid were neither unprecedented, nor unexpected, nor unforeseen. Texas experienced disruptive cold weather events in 1983, 1989, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2011. The events in 1989 and 2011, in particular, led to exactly the same type of rolling blackouts that have affected Texas residents and businesses. After the 2011 event, The Texas Public Utilities Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission both concluded that corrective actions taken after the 1989 event were inadequate – but the Defendants ignored these conclusions and failed to remedy the problem. Foreseeably, in February 2021, after Defendants chose not to implement the reasonable economical remedies recommended in 1989 and 2011, power failed across Texas, resulting in enormous losses, including deaths.
Mikal Watts, founding partner of Watts Guerra LLP, noted that “the Chair of the PUC, and all non-Texas members of ERCOT, have been forced to resign. These resignations speak volumes to ERCOT’s failures which caused Doyle’s death.”
Majed Nachawati, founding partner of Fears Nachawati, PLLC, who has decades of experience representing victims of corporate misconduct, said that this tragedy was “predictable, preventable, and unacceptable.”
Jerrold S. Parker, founding partner of Parker Waichman LLP, who has battled for victims of corporate greed over many decades and in many courtrooms throughout the United States, said that the extent of the neglect by the Texas power companies is some of the most significant he has ever seen. “Sadly, we are now seeing many Texans like Doyle Austin and his family, who are facing serious, irreversible consequences as a result of the greed and neglect of these power authorities.”
Filing a Texas Power Outage Lawsuit
Watts Guerra, Fears Nachawati and Parker Waichman have represented clients in injury lawsuits for decades. If you or someone you know is interested in filing a Texas Power Outage lawsuit, please call 1-800-800-4499 or visit the firms’ Texas Power Outage website.
New York | Brooklyn | Queens | Long Island | New Jersey | Florida
Call us at: 1-800-YOURLAWYER (800-968-7529) | Schedule your free consultation