Woman files $1m lawsuit against Texas grid operator for mother’s death during severe winter storm

Winter storm in mid-February saw the temperature drop to single digits and led to power outages and 210 deaths

Kelsie Sandoval
in New York
Wednesday 08 September 2021 19:32 BST
Texas homes devastated by burst pipes in winter storm

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A Texas woman whose 87-year-old mother died during the severe winter storm in February is suing the state’s grid operator and a power company over her death.

The winter storm, from 13-17 February, brought rare single-digit temperatures to the Lone Star state and led to power outages. Some 210 peopled died during the extreme weather.

Colinda Meza filed a lawsuit seeking $1million in damages again Austin Energy and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), according to a report this week.

Ms Meza’s mother, Connie Mae Richey, died from “a frozen urinary catheter that resulted from the sustained power outages,” the suit stated.

When the power went out on 15 February, Austin Energy said it would last “no more than 40 minutes at a time”, according to the filing. However Ms Meza’s home, where it appears her mother was staying, reportedly lost power for four days.

The lawsuit alleges “gross negligence and wrongful death”.

The Texas storm brought historic low temperatures to the state and caused the electrical grid to buckle under the high demand for power, leading to widespread outages. As many as 4.5 million Texas homes and businesses were left without heat or light in the freezing cold.

The leading cause of death was hypothermia, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, while other fatalities came from car accidents, carbon monoxide poisoning, falls, and fire. The majority of deaths occurred in Harris County where the city of Houston is located.

A recent study, published in the journal Science, found that the climate crisis may have exacerbated the winter storm in Texas.

Researchers discovered that the rapidly-warming Arctic region is causing the polar vortex to stretch and push cold surface area to the middle latitudes parts of the world, including Texas.

ERCOT said it could not comment on ongoing litigation and Austin Energy did not respond to a request for comment by The Independent.

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