JPS Nurse Injured in Elevator Accident Files Lawsuit Against Manufacturer

Lawyer says he'll let judge, jury decide final settlement once cost estimates are presented in court

Carren Stratford, a nurse at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, is suing elevator manufacturer thyssenkrupp after she was severely injured when an elevator she was riding in malfunctioned earlier this year.

On Jan. 20 Stratford entered Elevator 29 on the 10th floor. As she stepped on the elevator, it continued to climb.

"She fell, top half went over the side of the elevator and it continued to go up and she was crushed between the elevator and the wall," according to Stratford's attorney, Frank Branson. "When they finally got her free she had no pulse, she had brain damage, she had several vertebrae in her back broken, small intestine ruptured; she's been in the hospital ever since."

Stratford spent nearly a month in a coma before waking up and being transferred from the ICU to a step-down facility.

"Her future is not near what it was when she got up that morning," Branson said.

Branson said Tuesday they'd hoped to transfer Stratford to a rehab facility this week, but that the life-changing injuries she suffered require her to have too much nursing care to be moved at this time.

Regarding the lawsuit filed Tuesday morning, Branson said they are suing for in excess of $1 million, but that they are going to ask the judge and jury to do whatever they deem fair and reasonable once Stratford's future health care costs have been estimated and presented in court.

The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation released a report in May saying the accident was the result of brake failure, saying "worn-out brake shoes did not set firmly when the elevator arrived at the tenth floor, so the elevator car continued to move when the doors opened and the nurse attempted to enter."

"Standard in the industry, according to the state of Texas, is that these brake drums be maintained ... these were worn down," Branson said, adding it was to be done weekly. "We were there when they opened the elevator and opened the brake drum, nothing but dust and rust."

Branson said he'd need to see maintenance records to determine how long it may have been since the brake drums were serviced.

Branson said thyssenkrupp, the company contracted to maintain the elevators, had an employee full time at the hospital and that hospital employees were shown how to reset the elevators in the event people got stuck during the maintenance worker's off hours.

Following the accident, JPS officials terminated the maintenance agreement with thyssenkrupp and hired a new provider.

In April, an Arlington woman filed a lawsuit against JPS hospital after she said she was injured in an elevator at the hospital in 2017.

NBC 5 Investigates' Jack Douglas contributed to this report.

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