The Express Elevator To Lawsuit Hell

In little more than a month, three people have been injured at the same downtown building in elevators falling from the same cursed floor.

A story in today's Chronicle has the details: a man and woman were hurt on Monday when their elevator dropped two floors; on December 9, a woman was injured when her elevator plunged four floors.

Stephen Boutros is representing Deborah DeRouen, the woman injured in December, in a lawsuit against the building's owner - Hines - and the company in charge of elevator maintenance - Fujitec. Carleen Naumann, injured this week, has also retained Boutros, and he plans to file a separate but similar lawsuit on her behalf.

Houston is the only city in Texas that's exempt from state elevator safety laws, so city inspectors also have some responsibility in this. Boutros says that the city will have immunity from the suit unless he can prove that inspectors had actual knowledge of a dangerous condition and failed to make repairs. He doesn't think that's likely.

"The last time the city inspected this elevator was October 2007, so seeing that they hadn't been there for a year and three months, it would be difficult to prove they had actual knowledge," he says.

The Houston Press investigated the elevator industry in 2003, and the result, "Catching Elevators," is horrifying.

-- Paul Knight

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