Lawsuit filed against Austin Energy, ERCOT over February winter storms

The daughter of a woman who died during February’s winter storms has filed a lawsuit against Austin Energy and ERCOT. 

Colinda Meza is suing for more than $1 million in damages due to the "wrongful death" of her mother, Connie Mae Richey.

Richey, 87, was living under Meza’s care at a home in Austin when they lost power on Monday, Feb. 15. According to the lawsuit, they were under the impression from Austin Energy that rolling blackouts would typically occur for about 10-40 minutes at a time. 

However, they were out of power until Friday, Feb. 19.

According to the lawsuit, the family tried to admit Richey to St. David’s Medical Center in South Austin a couple of days after they lost power, but the hospital was experiencing its own freeze-related water issues. Instead, they took her to Dell Seton Medical Center in downtown Austin where she later died.

According to her death certificate cited in the lawsuit, Richey died from "urosepsis due to complicated by frozen urinary catheter." The death certificate noted that it was due to "exposure to extreme cold temperatures during February winter storm 2021."

The lawsuit accuses ERCOT and Austin Energy of gross negligence that resulted in Richey’s death.

A spokesperson for the City of Austin responded to a request for comment with the following statement: "We haven’t yet received the lawsuit, but once we do we will evaluate it and look for next steps that are appropriate for the city."

FOX 7 also reached out to ERCOT and a spokesperson said they cannot comment on pending litigation.

The attorneys representing the family, Guerrero & Whittle, PLLC, provided FOX 7 with the following statement:

"We look forward to getting some justice for Connie Richey’s family.  The family has been traumatized by their ordeal. What is galling is this was entirely preventable.  Had ERCOT and Austin Energy learned the lessons from past storms and spent the money needed to secure the grid and ensure that power got to the most vulnerable among us, Connie Richey would not have endured days and nights of unimaginable pain while her family desperately tried to ease her suffering.  So far, no one is taking responsibility for this mess, and it is time for accountability."

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