Fort Worth

Nurse who was critically injured at JPS files lawsuit against elevator company

How the JPS elevator accident happened

Robert Earley, President and CEO, JPS Health Network explains how nurse Carren Stratford, a nurse was seriously hurt in an elevator accident during a press conference at JPS Hospital in Fort Worth, TX, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019.
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Robert Earley, President and CEO, JPS Health Network explains how nurse Carren Stratford, a nurse was seriously hurt in an elevator accident during a press conference at JPS Hospital in Fort Worth, TX, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019.

A nurse who was critically injured when she was crushed while riding an elevator at John Peter Smith Hospital filed a lawsuit Tuesday morning against the hospital’s former elevator contractor, Thyssenkrupp.

The lawsuit alleges that the company failed to perform routine maintenance that would have prevented the Jan. 20 accident.

Carren Stratford, 56, was trapped between the doors of elevator No. 29 as it rose. Half of her body was inside the elevator and the other half was outside, the lawsuit says. She was unable to breathe and suffered a brain injury before she could be rescued. It took medical personnel 10 minutes to free her and she didn’t have a pulse when she was pulled free.

She remains a patient in a brain injury rehabilitation facility in Houston, according to her attorney Frank Branson.

“This is a tragedy in every sense because these horrible injuries were 100% preventable,” Branson said. “Had Thyssenkrupp simply performed the routine maintenance work as promised, Ms. Stratford would be caring for her family and serving the community at JPS Hospital like she was before this terrible event.”

The Star-Telegram found that elevators at JPS malfunctioned at a rate of at least once a day in the year leading up to Stratford’s injury. The newspaper also found that in 2017, elevator consulting firm Lerch Bates told JPS that elevator No. 29 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.

Branson said at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon that they have not seen any evidence that shows JPS should be included in the lawsuit. He said there has not been any monetary settlement by the hospital.

“I haven’t seen anything that I would fault JPS for, it may come up in discovery, but so far I haven’t seen anything,” he said.

JPS severed ties with Thyssenkrupp in March. The hospital now uses Southwest Elevator.

Before Tuesday’s filing, JPS Chief Executive Officer Robert Earley was scheduled for a deposition on July 19 with Stratford’s other attorney, Kern Lewis.

Lewis 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.

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.

Also named in the lawsuit is Thyssenkrupp employee Randal J. Mason, who worked onsite at the hospital to oversee the safety, maintenance and repair of the elevators.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages of at least $1 million for damages including medical expenses, physical impairment, physical pain and suffering and mental anguish.

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