Family of Man Who Died in February 2021 Winter Storm Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit

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James Thomas Jones

(Houston, TX) Houston attorneys Benny Agosto, Jr., Ben Agosto III, and Lena Laurenzo of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner have filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Harris County, Texas against CenterPoint Energy, Inc. on behalf of the daughter of James Thomas Jones, who lost his life as a result of the February 2021 winter storm power outages. Mr. Jones was an elderly man who needed a respirator to breathe; CenterPoint’s gross mismanagement of power allocation caused Mr. Jones to suffocate to death. During the February 2021 winter storm, CenterPoint completely failed to reasonably rotate power, which denied Mr. Jones the ability to utilize his primary respirator, and charge his secondary, portable respirator. Tragically, Mr. Jones’ story is one of many that demonstrates the miserable conditions of the winter storm that CenterPoint aggravated with its conduct. Mr. Jones’ death was completely avoidable. He will be sorely missed by his family.

Like many Houstonians during the winter storm, Mr. Jones hunkered down with his family on the night of February 14, 2021 to await the incoming freeze. At the time, Mr. Jones was living with his daughter, Plaintiff Pamela Bunkley. Similar still to millions of Houstonians, Plaintiff’s home lost power on Monday, February 15, 2021. Plaintiff’s home initially lost power at 10:00 pm but did not return for a full 24 hours until Tuesday, February 16, 2021 at approximately 10:00 pm. During that grueling interval, Mr. Jones was unable to use his primary respirator, which he needed to breathe. Mr. Jones also possessed a battery-powered back-up respirator, but the battery ran dry over the 24-hour period. Mr. Jones literally began to suffocate in the freezing cold. Over time, his breathing became more labored as the conditions worsened. Plaintiff and her husband, realizing the dire situation, frantically tried to charge the back-up respirator’s battery by utilizing jumper cables connected to Plaintiff’s car. This only provided minimal charge that was insufficient to power Mr. Jones’ respirator for any meaningful amount of time. Slowly, Mr. Jones grew weaker as the blackout prolonged, and as his body struggled to breathe in oxygen.

When the power returned to Plaintiff’s home at 10:00 pm on February 16, 2021, Mr. Jones and his family believed they had endured the worst of the freeze. Quickly, Mr. Jones was connected to his respirator, and his back-up was plugged in to charge. Mr. Jones and his family began to relax that they had weathered the crisis.

On February 17, 2021, at 2:30 am, Plaintiff’s home lost power again. With only minimal power restored to the battery, Mr. Jones had little time to use his respirator before the battery was completely dry. Despair returned and rapidly this time, as Mr. Jones’ breathing grew worse and more labored. After only 30 minutes following the second blackout, Plaintiff and her husband rushed Mr. Jones to the hospital. At that point, Mr. Jones’ breathing had become extremely labored and he was growing increasingly pale. Tragically, when Plaintiff’s car was only yards from the Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital ER, Plaintiff shared a final gaze with her father as he laid in the car’s backseat before he passed. Mr. Jones was pronounced dead soon after being transported from the car to the ER on February 17, 2021.

No question, Mr. Jones’ death was caused in part by CenterPoint’s negligent power distribution over the February 2021 winter storm. Even taking ERCOT’s role in the crisis, Houstonians were made personally aware of CenterPoint’s failings. It is intolerable that Mr. Jones had to struggle to survive while other Houstonians never lost power.

On Friday, March 12, 2021 a Petition was filed on behalf of Pamela Bunkley, daughter of James Thomas Jones, against CenterPoint seeking damages for Mr. Jones’ death.

For questions regarding the lawsuit or interview requests, please contact Madison Kauffman at [email protected] or 713-222-7211 or Benny Agosto, Jr. at [email protected].

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