Injuries claimed: Death
Court: Rock County Circuit Court
Case name: Mellom v. Shindler Elevator, et al.
Case number: 06 CV 1517
Judge: James Welker
Verdict & settlement: Jury returned plaintiff verdict
Original amount sought: $2.5 million
Original offer: No offer from elevator companies
Award: Partial settlement with the architect and Inspectors before trial on Pierringer releases: $150,000; verdict against elevator companies after 7 day trial: $2,173,074. The jury found product liability and assessed 50 percent against each of the elevator companies. The jury found that Mellom and the inspector and the maintence company were not negligent. The jury found GM negligent, but not causally negligent. Minnesota has paid off its half of the verdict.
The trial court has denied Shindler’s motions after verdict.
Date of incident: Oct. 30, 2003
Disposition date: Oct. 28, 2008
Original filing date: Oct. 18, 2006
Plaintiffs attorney (firm): James D. Wickhem, Meier, Wickhem, Lyons & Schulz, Janesville
Defendants attorney (firm): James Greer for Shindler; Scott Ridder for Minn, Whyte, Hirschboeck, Dudek; and Sizemore & Assocs, Milwaukee
Plaintiffs expert witnesses: Ralph Barnett, engineer; Karl Egge, economist.
Defendants expert witnesses: John Donnely, elevator expert; Patrick Carrajat, elevator expert; G. Richard Meadows, economist
Plaintiff counsel’s summary of the facts: Douglas Mellom was killed when he fell from the top of an industrial elevator at the General Motors assembly plant in Janesville. The elevator was manufactured and installed by Schindler Elevator Company and Minnesota Elevator company in 1998. No guardrails were placed around the top of the elevator despite industry recognition that significant maintenence and repair work were regularly performed on the top of elevators and that “one misstep could result in a fall down the shaft and disaster.” Guardrails were permitted by the elevator code, but not required at the time of installation. The blueprints raised the issue about guardrails, but they were excluded because “not needed in Wisconsin.”
Approximately three years after installation (and about a year and a half before the death), the code was changed to require guardrails. The elevator companies did nothing to alert GM or retrofit the Elevator. Mellom died when he fell from the top of the elevator while repairing a stuck gate. The elevator defendants claimed GM was negligent for allowing Mellom to use the “escape hatch” to access the top of the elevator for repairs and also claimed Mellom was negligent for failing to use a flashlight in dim lighting conditions. GM as the employer couldn’t be held responsible because of Workers Compensation Immunity. An elevator inspector, the project architect, and an elevator maintence company were also claimed negligent but settled out before trial.