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Mother whose 11-year-old son died in Texas freeze sues for $100 mln

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By Jonathan Stempel

Feb 22 (Reuters) - The mother of an 11-year-old boy who diedafter they lost electricity and heat in their Texas mobile homeduring last week's freeze has filed a $100 million lawsuitagainst two power companies for gross negligence.

Maria Pineda said the Electric Reliability Council of Texas(ERCOT) and Entergy Corp are responsible for the deathof her son Cristian, who was found unresponsive on the morningof Feb. 16 at home, where he shared a bed with his 3-year-oldbrother.

More than 4 million people in Texas lost power and at leasttwo dozen people died after a snowstorm blanketed the state lastweek and sent temperatures plunging well below freezing.

The complaint filed on Saturday accused the defendants ofignoring a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recommendationfollowing a 2011 freeze to "winterize" the power grid, and werecaught "wholly unprepared" when the grid failed last week.

Cristian froze to death "because grid wasn't a priority, andthe energy provider made decisions based on profits," said thecomplaint filed in the Jefferson County District Court.

The family lives in Conroe, Texas, a Houston suburb.

ERCOT, a cooperative responsible for about 90% of Texas'electricity, did not immediately respond on Monday to a requestfor comment.

Entergy declined to discuss the lawsuit, but a spokesmansaid: "We are deeply saddened by the loss of life in ourcommunity."

Pineda's lawyer Tony Buzbee told ABC News he representsseven families who suffered deaths in the storm's aftermath, andmore lawsuits against power companies are planned. An autopsy onCristian is being performed, ABC News said.

ERCOT began rolling blackouts on Feb. 15, saying they wereneeded to avert a cascading, statewide outage.

President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declarationfor Texas on Saturday.

Texas has an unusual, deregulated energy market that lets itavoid federal regulation but limits its ability to drawemergency power from other grids.(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by AuroraEllis)