The family of Cristian Pineda, an 11-year-old boy from Conroe, Texas who is believed to have died of hypothermia last week after his home lost power during a winter storm that hit the region, has sued the operator of the state’s power grid and the regional power company for $100 million, USA Today reports.
The wrongful death suit alleges that Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and Entergy Corporation were grossly negligent and “put profits over people” for failing to enact recommendations made by a federal watchdog after a 2011 winter storm caused widespread power outages. The suit also alleges that the power authorities repeatedly lied to the public about the extent of the problem and how long it would be before power was restored.
“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,” the lawsuit states.
Temperatures plummeted to as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Christian and his 3-year-old brother were huddled under a number of blankets trying to stay warm when his parents found him unresponsive. They called for an ambulance and started CPR, but he was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
The family alleges that the information put out by ERCOT and Entergy about the timetable for power restoration made them believe that power would be restored to their home in the immediate future when the power authorities knew it would be days before the grid would work. Had accurate information been made public, they would have made different decisions about staying in their home.
The lawsuit also notes that the companies were irresponsible and negligent for not updating their systems after receiving recommendations from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation following a 2011 storm that cut power to millions of people.
“Rather than invest in infrastructure to prepare for the known winter storms that would most certainly come and potentially leave people vulnerable without power, the providers instead chose to put profits over the welfare of people, and ERCOT allowed them to do so,” the lawsuit said.