By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – The mother of an 11-year-old boy who died after they lost electricity and heat in their Texas mobile home during last week’s freeze has filed a $100 million lawsuit against two power companies for gross negligence.
Maria Pineda said the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and Entergy Corp (NYSE:) are responsible for the death of her son Cristian, who was found unresponsive on the morning of Feb. 16 at home, where he shared a bed with his 3-year-old brother.
More than 4 million people in Texas lost power and at least two dozen people died after a snowstorm blanketed the state last week and sent temperatures plunging well below freezing.
The complaint filed on Saturday accused the defendants of ignoring a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recommendation following a 2011 freeze to “winterize” the power grid, and were caught “wholly unprepared” when the grid failed last week.
Cristian froze to death “because grid wasn’t a priority, and the energy provider made decisions based on profits,” said the complaint filed in the Jefferson County District Court.
The family lives in Conroe, Texas, a Houston suburb.
ERCOT, a cooperative responsible for about 90% of Texas’ electricity, did not immediately respond on Monday to a request for comment.
Entergy declined to discuss the lawsuit, but a spokesman said: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of life in our community.”
Pineda’s lawyer Tony Buzbee told ABC News he represents seven families who suffered deaths in the storm’s aftermath, and more lawsuits against power companies are planned. An autopsy on Cristian is being performed, ABC News said.
ERCOT began rolling blackouts on Feb. 15, saying they were needed to avert a cascading, statewide outage.
President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Texas on Saturday.
Texas has an unusual, deregulated energy market that lets it avoid federal regulation but limits its ability to draw emergency power from other grids.
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