Lawsuit Claims Texas Freeze, Power Outage Death The Result Of Negligence

icicles coming down from a building

A lawsuit filed on March 1 in Texas claims that CPS Energy’s negligence caused a power outage and the death of a San Antonio woman in February.

The woman’s husband found her dead in their bed on February 17, according to the complaint, one day after their home lost power on the morning of February 16. The complaint alleges that the cause of death was extreme cold resulting from a power outage.

The complaint argues that CPS knew for decades that their power grid needed to be protected from extreme cold, and knew the strong February winter storm was coming, yet:

  • Didn’t protect the power grid from extreme cold
  • Didn’t adequately prepare for the extreme cold event they knew was coming
  • Didn’t adequately respond once they knew they were projected to fail to meet power demand during the extreme cold event

The complaint argues that CPS Energy should have increased electric production capacity once they realized the winter storm was coming, and should have spent time, money and effort “winterizing” their power grid, “but consciously chose not to do so.”

The complaint notes similar winter storms caused blackouts in Texas in 1989 and 2011. The Public Utilities Commission of Texas, according to the complaint, recommended after the 1989 event that utilities make sure their facilities can withstand extreme cold and continue to check up on their ability to withstand extreme cold on a yearly basis.

The complaint notes that a Federal Regulatory Commission report, after the 2011 event, noted that the blackouts in 2011 happened for the same reasons as blackouts in 1989, concluding that the recommendations made by the Public Utilities Commission after the 1989 event weren’t adequately responded to. The report also found that increasing the levels of reserve power before the cold weather hit could have prevented blackouts.

“Now, many of these same power generators, transmitters, and distributors, including Defendant CPS Energy and others, have failed once again due to their refusal to implement the reasonable economical remedies recommended in 1989 and 2011,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit argues that the wrongful death of the woman was the result of negligence and gross negligence. The complaint argues that CPS breached its duty to operate its power grid with reasonable care, and that it continued to behave in a way which presented an extreme risk of harm to others while being aware that its behavior presented this risk.

The conduct of CPS Energy, according to the complaint, displayed “a conscious indifference and reckless disregard of the rights, safety, or welfare of others,” and warrants punitive damages to “deter others from engaging in similar conduct.”


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