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January 23, 2013

Court elevator at center of injury lawsuit

By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer

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A 44-year old Warren resident who claimed she was injured by an elevator door at the 37th District Court filed a lawsuit against the city Dec. 28.

WARREN — A Warren woman who claimed she was injured when an elevator door closed on her at the 37th District Court is suing the city, seeking damages in excess of $25,000.

The lawsuit was filed in Macomb County Circuit Court Dec. 28 on behalf of 44-year-old Marilynn Jordan.

It is alleged the doors of the elevator spanning the first and the second floors of the courthouse closed on Jordan as she attempted to exit Nov. 14, resulting in a hip injury that required surgery to repair.

Attorney Terry Dawes, representing Jordan with Geoffrey Fieger’s law firm, said he’s seeking 10 years of maintenance and service records for the elevator, in an attempt to determine what issues, if any, previously existed.

“I’m not directly aware of any (issues),” Dawes said. “Presumably if there was something that would have prompted some request for some maintenance or an investigation.

“It’s obviously an older elevator and the technology is not what it would be if it was a new and up-to-date elevator. It’s obviously open to the public and intended for them to use.”

Dawes confirmed that Jordan is an amputee. According to the lawsuit, she was at the court to deal with a landlord-tenant issue and did not feel safe negotiating the stairs of the courthouse on crutches.

The lawsuit states she instead opted to use the elevator to go from the main floor to the basement and back up again.

Jordan was allegedly crushed between the door and the frame of the elevator as she attempted to exit on the main floor. She was reportedly transported to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with an acute fracture of the left hip.

Court Administrator Rob Curtis said he could not comment on the specifics of the case, but he said he was alerted to the incident as soon as it happened.

Curtis said he couldn’t recall an instance of the elevator breaking down or specific complaints about it.

The 37th District Court complex was built in 1975 and has recently been the subject of debate about its aging design and infrastructure.

Court officials, led by Chief Judge John Chmura, have pressed the case for a new courthouse that meets modern design and safety standards.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, however, has instead favored less-costly measures to fix a leaky roof, address basement flooding and improve security with video monitoring.

Ironically, the newly installed video security system captured footage of the elevator incident.

Curtis said Fieger’s firm sought access to the footage through a Freedom of Information Act request, but the request was denied by the city. The footage was eventually provided, however, after the lawsuit was filed and the city received a subpoena. 

The case has been assigned to Macomb County Circuit Court Judge John C. Foster.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brian Louwers at brianlouwers@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1089.