Last week, starting from February 15, and for several days, an unprecedented winter storm stroke Texas (and in general the central and southern states). The winter storm and potentially some questionable decisions left millions of people without electricity for several days, searching for the basics. Everything that happened caused severe damage and critical questions. One of them is “Can the people of Texas join forces for a Class-Action?”
We are based in Austin, Texas, and we went through this terrible experience firsthand. And while we managed to maintain our operations and capacity through our contingency plans, thanks to our staff not being tied to a single location, we still counted damages and had to spend days without electricity. Giving a brief overview of what happened, the winter storm was one of this one in a hundred years events. And while it’s undoubtedly an act of god, many questions arise, mainly concerning the level of preparation in Texas, the contingency plans, and some decisions that proved to be poor. We’re primarily referring to ERCOT’s (the electricity grid management/operators) plan to pull the plug in various districts and bring it back on in rotations. This whole scenario backfired due to the severe weather conditions, and millions of inhabitants were left without electricity for days.
Given all this information, and with prior knowledge coming from similar disastrous situations, we’re wondering how all the affected people can fight for their rights. Similar to what we’ve seen in other cases, experts predict that many insurance companies will deny claims, stating that it was an act of god. Can this be the next BP oil spill lawsuit?
Let’s break it down and understand why this can become a possible class-action.
- There’s no doubt that it all started from natural sources, and this is a natural disaster. But the first point to explore and investigate is if there was human error involved. According to experts, the power grid was not prepared for extreme conditions and the surge in demand. And while it’s odd, Texas is the number one energy-producing state but still didn’t manage to go through and survive the reality earlier in February effectively. It appears that the government made decisions not to upgrade equipment to withstand shallow temperatures.
- The second key point here is the independent operation policy in Texas. It predominantly operates independently from other power grids in the US, which meant the absence of any potential assistance.
- Another question that arises is if this winter storm could have been predicted. Numerous experts state that this could’ve been the case as forecasts showed it weeks ahead, creating time for preparations. According to Jay Apt, co-director of Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center, “When I read that this was a black-swan event, I just have to wonder whether the folks who are saying that have been in this business long enough that they forgot everything, or just came into it,”
- And then we have one of the most significant decisions that proved to be disastrous. Rolling blackout is typical when power grids are on edge, using them as a last resort. Power companies or grid operators tend to use them when they see major trouble coming their way. Their concept is to avoid leaving large areas without electricity for extended periods. But it all went wrong in this case. The extremely low temperatures didn’t allow this plan to be executed, and when ERCOT tried to bring the electricity back on, everything was already frozen. Could they look for alternatives? That is all theory, but the ugly truth showed that an unrealistic plan created chaos, severe damages, and cost Texan lives.
What kind of damages and losses could be eligible for a class-action lawsuit?
- Burst and broken pipes.
- Collapsed roofs and ceilings.
- Water damage and flooding.
- Damaged home devices, furniture, and other belongings.
Several of these issues can require prolonged periods before complete restoration, and while insurance companies might deny claims, a class-action could be viable.
- Injuries and deaths.
That is undoubtedly the most disheartening reality we face. The winter storm and the blackout caused countless injuries and deaths, with the number still confirmed. The most common causes are hypothermia, poisoning from trying to get warm using unsafe methods, house fires, slip and falls caused by ice, car crashes, and inability to get medical treatment.
Fact: The family of an 11-year old boy that died from hypothermia filled a class-action claiming $100M as it alleges power company of negligence.
If your Law Firm wants to help those in need, and get involved in a potential lawsuit, now is the time to do it. It’s still early, and some aspects are unclear, but if you possess the means to stand by those who got harmed, you should step in right away. Additionally, by joining early, you maximize your chances to get the most out of your time and investment, aiming for maximized ROI. You can listen to our last podcast episode, where we discuss what happened and what could be the next steps.
Last but not least, another class-action lawsuit is surfacing. This week, a woman from Texas brought to the forefront a potential case against the power retailer Griddy. The woman and other customers saw their bills skyrocketing at over 300x. The fact that the company supposedly informed the clients about changing operator or provider wasn’t an option amid the winter storm and extreme conditions. Griddy is putting the blame PUCT, stating that they used their authority to enforce a price of $9/kWh instead of 0.3/kWh. The company promises to join forces with its clients to go against those who enforced those ridiculous prices, the generators. Let’s see how this will evolve.
What are the key takeaways?
- The most critical takeaway from this situation is that we have to be ready for not just the worst-case scenario but 100 times worse than the worst we can think.
- Texans have suffered heavily from the winter storm and, in many cases, might need your Law Firm’s help to file their claims and fight against insurance companies. Be it damages, injuries, or death, countless people are affected and could soon be looking for an attorney who’s ready to fight for their rights.
- Similar to Mass Torts Marketing, this might be a scenario favoring those who catch the wave early.