Luzerne County sues elevator companies over prison deaths

By Patrick Kernan - [email protected]
Moules -
Luzerne County Correctional Facility -

WILKES-BARRE — Luzerne County is now launching a lawsuit of its own against four elevator companies stemming from the 2016 deaths of a correctional officer and an inmate in a elevator shaft at the lockup.

The county court case comes in addition to suits filed by the estates of the deceased men.

Filed by attorneys Sean P. McDonough and John P. Finnerty of Dougherty, Leventhal and Price, the suit claims bad work from the companies cost taxpayers more than $180,000.

Correctional officer Kristopher Moules, 25, and inmate Timothy Darnell Gilliam Jr., 27, were killed on July 18, 2016, during an altercation outside a prison elevator shaft.

Gilliam allegedly struggled with Moules when they fell into the door, which buckled, allowing them to fall more than 59 feet from the fifth floor to the top of the elevator car, which was on the ground floor. Both died of multiple traumatic injuries.

In its suit, the county named as defendants Schindler Elevator Corp., subsidiary Inventio AG, Otis Elevator Co., and Nagle Elevator Inspection and Testing LLC.

“Had the subject elevator hoistway door and related equipment, components and safety devices been appropriately specified, supplied, installed, inspected, repaired, and maintained, the subject hoistway door would never have failed as it did on July 18, 2016,” the attorneys wrote.

The lawyers list structural issues with the elevator, including the door being fitted with an undersized gib as a replacement for another part. They accuse Schindler, contracted to maintain the elevators, of knowingly using the improper part, instead of reaching out to Otis, who installed the elevator around 1986, for a replacement part.

McDonough and Finnerty call this an “improper, inadequate, and cheap replacement part as cost-saving measure.”

Each of the parties — including Inventio AG, which makes parts for Schindler; and Nagle, which was required to perform elevator inspections — was sued by the county on counts of negligence, breach of contract and warranty.

McDonough and Finnerty write that total damages associated with repair and cleanup from the accident comes to $182,565. They are seeking all compensation the court deems appropriate.

Families of the dead men filed suits of their own, initially against the same four defendants as those listed in the county’s suit.

However, in June, court records showed Moules’ and Gilliam’s families dropped the suit against the Otis Elevator Co. The filings did not show if a settlement had been reached, nor was there any indication of what happened to other defendants.


Luzerne County Correctional Facility×381-2.jpgLuzerne County Correctional Facility

By Patrick Kernan

[email protected]

Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan

Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan