Texas Energy Operators Sued Over Winter Power Outage That Led to Woman's Death

A woman in Austin, Texas has filed a lawsuit against the city's energy utility provider and Texas' power grid operator, seeking damages for her mother's death during the crippling winter storm of 2021, KXAN Austin first reported

Colinda Meza is suing Austin Energy and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas for $1 million in the death of her mother, Connie May Richey, who died when her urinary catheter froze during a storm that knocked out power across the state amid uncharacteristic single-digit temperatures.

According to KXAN, the lawsuit cited "gross negligence and wrongful death for exemplary damages." On February 15, Austin Energy told its customers that the outages would not exceed 40 minutes at a time, but the Meza's home remained without power for four days.

ERCOT did not immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comment, and the litigant could not be reached. Austin Energy told Newsweek they could not comment on the pending litigation.

The devastating winter storm in a state, usually known for mild winters, seized the power grid and left utility companies scrambling for solutions. More than 210 people died, according to officials from the Texas Department of Health Services, who reported the final death toll in July.

Ted Cruz Goes to Cancun
Connie May Richey is suing Austin Energy and the Electric Reliability Council for $1 million in the death of her mother after the Texas energy grid failed in February. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, checks in for a flight at Cancun International Airport on February 18 in Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico. MEGA/GC Images/Getty Images

"DSHS disaster epidemiologists continue to reconcile information about causes of death. The majority of confirmed deaths were associated with hypothermia," officials said in a statement. "There have also been multiple deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents, carbon monoxide poisoning, exacerbation of chronic illness, falls and fire. Confirmed deaths occurred between February 11 and March 5."

Data showed that Dallas, Travis and Harris county experienced the most deaths, with most others experiencing single-digit counts. Many more suffered extreme damage to their homes, including burst pipes that caused flooding and destroyed people's residences.

The tragic cold snap was one of several recent violent weather episodes showcasing how unprepared the U.S.'s aging infrastructure is for the future of climate change, according to a new study published in the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The study, published earlier this month, found that contrary to climate model predictions, winter weather extremes across the Northern Hemisphere have reportedly become more frequent. Climate events like the one seen in Texas is likely a result of accelerated warming in the Artic.

"One notable example of this is the U.S. Southern Plains cold wave of February 2021, which resulted in the collapse of the Texas energy grid and record damages estimated at nearly USD 200 billion," the authors said in the study.