February has already been a crazy month for those of us living in Texas. Extreme weather, power outages, broken pipes, and boil water advisories have dominated the local Houston news. Unfortunately, the weather is not the only culprit in the hardship that has fallen on Texas and its residents. At the center of this chaos has been ERCOT, the power company responsible for keeping 26 million Texans warm.
Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT for short, manages the flow of electric power to more than 26 million Texas customers. This represents about 90% of the state’s electric load. As the independent system operator for the region, ERCOT schedules power on an electric grid that connects more than 46,500 miles of transmission lines and 680+ generation units. It also performs financial settlement for the competitive wholesale bulk-power market and administers retail switching for 8 million premises in competitive choice areas.
While ERCOT is a membership-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation, it is governed by a board of directors and subject to oversight by the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Texas Legislature. Its members include consumers, cooperatives, generators, power marketers, retail electric providers, investor-owned electric utilities, transmission and distribution providers, and municipally-owned electric utilities.
All of those figures and data points illustrate the massive influence ERCOT has on the state of Texas. It also shows the magnitude of responsibility ERCOT has for the safety and welfare of 26 million Texans.
As we look back at the events of this last week and the dramatic loss of life, it begs the question—was ERCOT negligent, and is it responsible for the loss of life we are now seeing?
Can ERCOT be Sued for Negligence?
This arctic freeze has been a disaster! It’s been a natural disaster, but more shockingly, it’s been a man-made disaster. This disaster has made it clear that there has been severe negligence on the part of Texas’ electrical grid provider—ERCOT. We are finding that people have frozen to death in their houses, apartments, mobile homes, and cars. They froze to death because the power was shut down randomly throughout the State of Texas, and they had no access to heat or their life-saving medical equipment.
In relation to personal injury claims, negligence describes a situation where a party’s action or inaction has constituted a failure to act with proper or reasonable care, resulting in harm to another person. When a person is injured because of the recklessness or carelessness of another, that negligent party may be sued for financial compensation.
Whether or not ERCOT can be sued and held liable is a complicated question, and there is no direct answer yet.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to the Texas blackout, I strongly urge you to contact a lawyer ASAP. Lawsuits are being filed right now, so time is of the essence.
People have frozen to death, and it is important to hold any business accountable if there is negligence involved.
Does ERCOT Have Sovereign Immunity?
Sovereign immunity is defined as and refers to the fact that the government cannot be sued without its consent. The lawyers working on these negligence and wrongful death claims will be working hard to fight any sovereign immunity claims.
There is a pending decision by the Texas Supreme Court which could change the sovereign immunity status of ERCOT. Court justices are expected to rule this year on a case between Panda Power and ERCOT. This verdict could strip the Texas grid operator of its sovereign immunity, leaving it open to lawsuits.
Will There be a Class Action Lawsuit Against ERCOT?
We currently do not know if a class action lawsuit against ERCOT will occur. It’s really too early for this to be determined. My law firm will be filing individual lawsuits for anyone who has suffered severe injuries or death caused by the freeze and loss of power.
As a personal injury attorney, I’ll be working hard on all injury and death claims related to the blackouts caused by ERCOT. Settlements or verdicts are never guaranteed, but my firm will work as hard as we can to successfully obtain financial compensation for clients if negligence was responsible for a loss.
Can You Receive a Settlement?
In these types of claims, a decedent’s immediate family members are most likely entitled to monetary compensation when there is a wrongful death. Financial compensation is the main way (and really one of the only ways) to help a family after there is a wrongful death.
Financial compensation can include coverage of:
- Mental anguish
- Loss of support
- Lost prospect of inheritance
- Past medical expenses
- Funeral or burial expenses
- Loss of future income
- Past pain and suffering (of the victim until the time of death)
Request a Free Initial Consultation
If you are injured and believe you have been a victim of someone else’s negligence, call me at 281-929-0110 for a free initial consultation.
As your personal injury lawyer, I will only receive a fee if we recover a settlement or jury verdict for you. In other words, you don’t pay any legal fees unless I make a financial recovery for you!