Fort Worth

Lawyer for nurse injured in elevator prepares for lawsuit, will question hospital CEO

A judge will allow the attorney of a John Peter Smith Hospital nurse who was seriously injured in an elevator accident to depose the hospital’s leader in preparation for a lawsuit.

Attorney Kern Lewis requested the deposition of Chief Executive Officer Robert Earley last month. A judge on Tuesday set the deposition for July 19.

Court documents say that Lewis intends to file a lawsuit against the hospital’s former elevator contractor — Thyssenkrupp — and “potentially others involved in the maintenance or operation of the elevator.”

The document does not specifically say whether or not the lawsuit will also target JPS.

Carren Stratford was injured on Jan. 20 as she tried to get into elevator No. 29 at JPS. As Stratford placed her right foot on the elevator and stepped into it, the elevator continued to rise. She lost her balance and the elevator continued going up. She was crushed between the 10th and 11th floors, officials said.

Lewis also requested copies of communication between JPS and Thyssenkrupp for the year leading up to the injury, and any documents that show if JPS had been given specific warnings about the need to repair or replace parts of elevator No. 29, whether JPS had prior notice of brake failure or maintenance, and if JPS had unqualified personnel perform repairs on elevators.

The answers to the questions Lewis seeks have been reported by the Star-Telegram through several records requests.

Elevator No. 29 has had a history of maintenance and safety problems dating to at least 2015, according to documents obtained and analyzed by the newspaper.

The elevator had been out of service at least four times in the year before the accident, including at least two weeks in the month prior to the employee’s injury, the records show.

In 2017, elevator consulting firm Lerch Bates told JPS that the elevator needed updates to nearly every part. The hospital instead updated two other elevators. A representative said it was because the other elevators were used more frequently.

Then, a week before Stratford was hurt, Thyssenkrupp warned hospital officials to stop working on and resetting elevators themselves. The hospital received the warning in a letter delivered to the hospital on Jan. 14, according to records.

In May, state inspectors found that a lack of routine maintenance and equipment checks led to a brake failure on the elevator.

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