Injured JPS Hospital nurse suing over elevator malfunction

A nurse at John Peter Smith Hospital who suffered serious injuries when an elevator malfunctioned earlier this year is suing the elevator company for negligence.

On January 20, Carren Stratford was stepping into an elevator at work at JPS when the brakes failed. The elevator continued going up even as half of her body was still outside of the elevator doors, crushing her inside the elevator shaft.

It's been almost seven months since the incident happened. Stratford's attorney says she's been in the hospital ever since and can only somewhat communicate. She had several vertebrae in her back broken, small intestines ruptured and suffered brain damage so severe that she still requires constant care.

According to the lawsuit, Stratford stepped onto the elevator as it was heading up from the tenth floor. The brakes failed and the elevator continued up, causing her to fall with the lower half her body inside the elevator and the upper half of her body still outside. She was crushed and unable to breathe. It took about ten minutes to free her. When Stratford got out, she didn't have a pulse and the lack of oxygen to her brain caused serious brain injury.

According to a state investigation, the elevator's brakes failed because certain parts lacked lubrication and others were worn down past the point of needing to be replaced. The report also states there was a lack of routine maintenance and equipment checks.

“The standard in the industry, according to the state of Texas, is that these brake drums be maintained,” said Frank Branson, Stratford’s attorney. “These were worn down and that they lubricate them once a week. We were there when they opened the elevator and got the brake drums, and there was nothing but dust and rust. State of Texas said there didn't look like there was any evidence of lubrication.”

In the weeks that followed the accident, JPS and Thyssenkrupp publically pointed fingers at one another.

Thyssenkrupp released a letter saying it had warned JPS employees against resetting the elevators before the accident. Despite that, Stratford's attorneys have solely placed the blame on Thyssenkrupp.

Thyssenkrupp and their attorneys say they do not comment on pending litigation.

Another nurse at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital also filed a lawsuit against Thyssenkrup earlier this year for a 2018 incident where the elevator she was in suddenly dropped three floors, causing serious injuries.

For now, Stratford's attorney says they're not holding the hospital responsible because they haven't seen anything, so far, that proves JPS is to blame. Plus, by state law, her workers' compensation insurance prevents her from filing suit against her employer.

The company has 50 days to provide Stratford and her attorneys any related documentation and reports regarding the faulty elevator and its maintenance.

JPS announced last month that a new company is refurbishing five of its elevators, including elevator 29.