A lawsuit filed in Harris County District Court on March 12 claims negligence by Texas utility Centerpoint Energy cost a Houston man’s life.
A winter storm hit North America during the time period from February 13 through the 17th. The storm caused at least 9.9 million power outages, caused at least $195 billion in damage and killed at least 82 people. The storm brought extreme cold to Texas, which led to increased energy demand.
The lawsuit claims that the Houston man died because the power went out, causing his respirators, which he needed to breathe, to become inoperable.
Electric Reliability Council of Texas, according to the complaint, directed Centerpoint to reduce energy load with rotating outages once it became apparent the extreme cold was causing demand to exceed supply.
The central claim of the complaint is that Centerpoint, instead of fairly distributing rotating power outages in a way that would be safe to the residents of Houston, intentionally kept the power out in parts of Houston for a day or more in order to make sure that the power stayed on for the duration of the storm in more affluent areas of Houston.
“Cutting power to most while leaving it for the select few is wrong, malicious, and grossly negligent,” the lawsuit argues, adding that “Centerpoint’s conscious indifference to strip millions of power, while publicly stating with a wink and a nod that power would be ‘rotated’ in sub-hour intervals [led] to the deaths of many.”
The lawsuit seeks to recover damages based on the causes of action of negligence and gross negligence.
Negligence is failing to be reasonably careful to prevent harm. The complaint alleges that Centerpoint failed to exercise reasonable caution when they failed to warn customers they’d be out of power for a day or more, and when they failed to rotate power fairly.
Gross negligence is acting negligently while being aware of it. Centerpoint’s actions constitute gross negligence, according to the complaint, since Centerpoint “had actual subjective awareness of the risk involved” when they “proceeded in conscious indifference to the rights, safety, and/or welfare” of others.
The decedent’s power, according to the complaint, was down for 24 hours before it came back on again for four and a half hours, after which it went down again. The decedent, according to the complaint, was rushed to the hospital a half hour after the power went down a second time, and passed shortly after being transferred from the car he was transported in to the emergency room.