Lawsuit filed against ERCOT, Oncor in connection to carbon monoxide deaths in Nacogdoches County

Pictured are two of the three people who died of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning in an...
Pictured are two of the three people who died of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning in an Nacogdoches County home: JJ James Harkness (left), 60, and Richard Woodard Jr., 42. (Source: Traci Benge)(Traci Benge)
Updated: Mar. 4, 2021 at 12:43 PM CST
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From Androvett Legal Media

NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, Texas - Relatives of two East Texas residents have joined an existing wrongful death lawsuit filed in Harris County district court against the state’s grid manager and electricity providers, charging that their failure to prepare and negligent management of the electricity supply during winter storm blackouts caused their tragic deaths.

The intervenor lawsuit is filed on behalf of relatives of James Harkness Jr., 60, and Richard Woodard Jr. 40. The Nacogdoches-area men were found dead Feb. 20, along with 63-year-old Deborah Wright, in a home in the nearby Melrose community. The plaintiffs are represented by Dallas-based Fears Nachawati Law Firm, Watts Guerra LLP, and Parker Waichman LLP.

Without power and heat for days as temperatures dipped to as low as minus 2 degrees, the three fought to stay warm. As the blackout continued without relief, they used a gasoline-powered generator for electricity and heat. Vibrations from the generator caused it to move too close to the house, where hot exhaust burned a hole in a wall, allowing carbon monoxide gas to slowly seep inside, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs joined an existing lawsuit filed in Harris County district court as intervenors, which allows parties to conserve judicial resources and eliminate duplicative proceedings. The original lawsuit is Linda Brown, individually, as next of kin of Doyle E. Austin et al. v. Electric Reliability Council of Texas and Centerpoint Energy Inc., Cause No. 2021-09733, in the Harris County 11th Judicial District Court.

Previous report: Nacogdoches Sheriff’s Office releases IDs of 3 dead of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning