A Ceiling and a Judgement

I don’t know about you, but every once in a while I’ll get into an elevator and – just for a second or two – will give a little shudder at what could go wrong. I think it’s natural, even though the odds are so astronomically in our – the rider’s – favor.

I mean, the odds are incrementally higher that the music will be hideous, someone’s perfume or aftershave is a scent that could only be taken from the corpse flower, you’re headed for the 46th floor and some joker gets off on the second and hits every button on his way out the door.

What I’ve never worried or even thought about was something that happened in the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center in 2016: two court employees were in the elevator when it inexplicably sped up and crashed into the ceiling.

One of the men, a sheriff’s deputy, was paralyzed from the waist down.

He, of course, sued. He sued the mangers of the building, the elevator manufacturer, the company that maintained the elevators, and a host of others.

He just settled the case for $20.5 million. There was no trial, it appears from everything I’ve been able to read so far that settlement discussions went fairly quickly – it seems that the only real issues were what the sheriff’s deputy and his wife needed for medical care and income for the rest of their lives and what percentage of ‘blame’ each of the companies would ‘accept.’

In other words, which of them was the ‘most’ responsible.

I’m writing about this today because two things really struck me, a fact that immediately popped up when discovery began and another that came up when the law suit was publicized.

First, discovery: his lawyers quickly uncovered the fact that when maintenance was done on the elevator in 2009, the old bolts were reinstalled despite the fact their age dictated retirement.

Then the killer: soon after the action was filed a whistle-blower action was filed against the building’s maintenance company. In December 2013 a former employee reported “life threatening safety issues”  . . . and was fired.

It just goes to show, you never really know what’s going to happen to buttress a case when you bring an action. In this case, someone else out there in the community who had probably been watching and waiting for the opportunity to prove themselves right for years.

You never really know. One of the reasons I love what I do. 


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