Winter Storm Lawsuits Active After Two Years

winter storm
Dallas Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit | Image by Alexa Ura / Texas Tribune

Many are still dealing with the fallout of a big Texas snowstorm two years later.

Last year, the Dallas Court of Appeals for the Fifth District made it easier for people to sue the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) after reversing a prior immunity ruling.

ERCOT is responsible for operating the Texas power grid, which faltered and left thousands of people without electricity in the midst of a snowstorm. At least 246 residents died as a result of the power outages, The Dallas Morning News reported

The appellate court’s decision to open ERCOT up to liability is currently being deliberated by the Texas Supreme Court, as The Dallas Express previously reported. What has complicated the matter most is ERCOT’s ambiguous status. 

“ERCOT is unlike anything we’ve seen,” explained Wallace Jefferson, who represented ERCOT before the Texas Supreme Court, according to KXAN. “Yes, it’s so-called ‘private,’ but in every other aspect, its board, its budget, its bylaws, and its assets … are all state-controlled.”

Counting among the thousands of plaintiffs claiming damages from ERCOT include more than 100 insurance companies, according to The Dallas Morning News. The Texas Department of Insurance indicated that 500,196 freeze-related insurance claims were filed in connection to the 2021 storm and power grid failure.

At the two-year anniversary of the freeze, the window for claims to be made against ERCOT is closing as the statute of limitations comes to an end.

In an interview with The Texas Tribune, Cherrilyn Nedd expressed disbelief that she and her husband would still be dealing with the damages done to their home in Houston two years later. During the historic storm, a pipe froze, busted, and split the ceiling, flooding the first floor and causing approximately $90,000 in damages, not to mention the loss of many sentimental keepsakes. 

“This should not have happened,” Nedd said. “We are not living in a Third World country. This is America. And you mean to tell me that y’all cannot prepare better? It’s out of greed that you did this.”

Most of the insurance claims related to this event are residential, like Nedd’s, according to The Dallas Morning News, and amount to roughly $10.3 billion. Yet there are a number of wrongful death lawsuits and bankruptcy claims levied against ERCOT as well, per The Dallas Morning News. 

“And let me just be humble: We didn’t die,” Nedd said to The Texas Tribune. “You have people that died from it. So I have property loss and inconveniences, so I’m grateful. … At the same time, all of that could have been prevented.”

These lawsuits have prompted legislators to call for change so this won’t happen again. Power generators and natural gas producers have been required to better prepare equipment to be sustainable in extremely cold weather.

Indeed, as The Dallas Express reported, in the most recent freeze faced by Texas, the grid was fueled by natural gas and only around 1% of Texas residents lost power.

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