By: Jeff Westney
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CJC Elevator Crash, $20.5M Settlement
The sheriff’s deputy who was partially paralyzed following a 2016 elevator malfunction at the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia has agreed to settle his claims against numerous companies for $20.5 million.
Paul Owens, who was paralyzed from the waist down after the elevator he was in sped up through the CJC before crashing into the ceiling, agreed to settle his claims against the companies late on December 13th following a mediation before Jerry Roscoe, according to his attorney, Michael Tinari of Leonard, Sciolla, Hutchison, Leonard & Tinari.
“Paul and Heather are satisfied and happy to know that the money will cover their future medical costs and his living needs,” Tinari said. “That’s a weight off their shoulders.”
Owens and a court employee were injured during the crash that took place in early August 2016. The crash involved restricted-access elevators used mostly by judges and court staff, and raised concerns throughout the Philadelphia legal community.
Owens’ lawsuit, which was filed in January 2017, included allegations that the defendants were reckless and failed to notify the public of any warning signs regarding the elevators’ safety.
According to Tinari, who handled the case along with Christopher Fleming, the settlement was largely motivated by the severity of Owens’ injury and the evidence that was uncovered, which, Tinari said, showed there was faulty bolts and ring gear. According to Tinari, a company later bought by Otis performed maintenance on the elevator in 2009, and, when the ring gear was replaced, the original bolts, which dated back to 1994, were reused. The bolts, he said, should not have been reused, and over time they became loose and broke.
Several months after Owens’ lawsuit was filed, a whistle-blower suit was also filed against U.S. Facilities, the management company that was allegedly responsible for maintaining the elevators. According to the complaint, a company employee who was the building manager for the CJC reported “life safety issues” starting in December 2013, but was later fired. Tinari told The Legal in August that the whistle-blower suit bolstered Owens’ punitive damages claims.
source: The Legal Intelligencer