Court issues critical decision over ERCOT's ability to be sued

Keaton Fox Image
Friday, March 19, 2021
ERCOT claims it can't be sued
Lawsuits were formed in the immediate aftermath of the 2021 Texas winter storm, including one representing the family of a Conroe boy who died during the course of the weather event. But in the video, we lay out why ERCOT claims it can't be sued.

The complicated, intricate, and unpredictable situation surrounding Texas' power grid somehow, someway just got even more complicated.

In a 5-4 vote, the Texas Supreme Court voted it didn't have jurisdiction to decide whether ERCOT can be sued.

ERCOT, the state's power grid manager, claims it cannot be sued because it has "sovereign immunity," a legal principle that protects some governmental agencies from lawsuits because allowing them would disrupt "key government services" when money is spent on litigation.

SEE MORE: Texas' grid operator ERCOT has 1 reason that it claims it can't be sued

In the Court's opinion, issued Friday, Justice Jeffrey Boyd wrote that because of some legal wrangling surrounding the cases in front of the court of appeals, the nine justices don't have the legal authority to make a decision on the case.

"However much we may desire to provide answers in these now-moot interlocutory proceedings, the constitution prohibits us from doing so," Boyd wrote.

In a strongly worded dissent, Justice Eva Guzman blasted the courts decision, saying it was a case of immense importance that the Court had a duty to settle, adding the panel had abandoned its constitutional responsibility.

Chief Justice Nathan Hecht also dissented, writing the "Court is simply wrong," adding this decision is a waste of time and resources.

"The parties want to know. The public wants to know. The Court refuses to answer," Hecht said.

Dallas-based Panda Power sued ERCOT in 2016, claiming that reports the grid operator put out said the state was woefully short on power generation. Using that prediction, Panda Power spent billions building new plants. But the report was wrong and at least one of the new plants went bankrupt.

The suit says ERCOT intentionally manipulated the projections, bowing to political pressure.

An appeals court upheld ERCOT's claim to immunity in 2018.

Lawyers across the state have filed new lawsuits against the operator in the wake of the 2021 winter storm. All the suits so far allege the grid operators didn't do enough to prevent massive blackouts that affected nearly 5 million Texans.

WATCH: What does ERCOT do? And why is it a nonprofit?

WHAT IS ERCOT? There might be some misunderstanding behind the leaders behind Texas' electric grid. In the video, get a basic understanding of what this group does and why it was formed.