Family of 11-year-old who ‘froze to death’ file $100 million lawsuit against power companies

The family of an 11-year-old who died in the recent cold weather in Texas have filed a $100 million lawsuit against power companies for negligence.

Cristian Pineda was found unresponsive by his mother in their mobile home last week amid freezing temperatures.

Millions were left without power in the unusually cold weather, which has killed dozens in southern states.

The family suspect hypothermia but police say official autopsy results may take weeks.

The lawsuit accuses utility firms of putting “profits over the welfare of people” by failing to prepare properly.

Power companies Entergy Corporation and Electric Reliability Council of Texas (Ercot) were named in the lawsuit.

“Despite having knowledge of the dire weather forecast for at least a week in advance, and the knowledge that the system was not prepared for more than a decade, Ercot and Entergy failed to take any peremptory action that could have averted the crisis and were wholly unprepared to deal with the crisis at hand,” the lawsuit alleges.

A spokesperson for Entergy Texas said the company was “deeply saddened by the loss of life in our community”, but was unable to comment further “due to pending litigation”.

The state’s power companies are facing major scrutiny for the blackouts as well as cases where some customers are receiving sky-high bills for their usage.

Texas has a deregulated power system which operates independently from other states.

Governor Greg Abbott has already called for an investigation into Ercot, which manages the grid for over 90% of the state’s customers, over its handling of the weather crisis.

The council said it initiated emergency rolling blackouts to avoid a state-wide loss of power after about 46% of the privately owned power generation tripped offline last week.

The complaint alleges power was turned off to “those who were most vulnerable to the cold” as temperatures plummeted to 30-year lows.

“Hence, there were images of empty downtown Houston office buildings with power, but the Pinedas’ mobile home park was left without power,” the lawsuit alleges.

The Pineda family were without electricity and heat for two days as temperatures dropped to -12C where they lived, according to the lawsuit.

Speaking to the Houston Chronicle newspaper, his mother said Cristian saw snow on Sunday last week for the “first time” since the family migrated from Honduras two years ago. She described him as being “excited” to play outside”.

“Everything was well. He was happy that day. He was not at all sick,” she said.

The family of five said they stayed together in one room that night to keep warm. Cristian shared a bed with his younger brother, aged three, but was unresponsive the next day when his mother tried to wake him. She called the emergency services and tried to resuscitate him but without success, according to the legal filing.

More than $86,000 has been donated on an online fundraiser, set up by the family to help them send the 11-year-old’s body back to Honduras to be buried by his grandparents.