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Elevator death spawns lawsuit: Frivolous or not?

posted 10/21/2008 2:00:29 AM |
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Andy "Polo" Polakowski was killed in a dormitory elevator accident two years ago today at Ohio State University, where he was a freshman.

Friends still visit his memorial page on Facebook, a social-networking Web site, to leave messages and post photographs.

Today's freshmen, and other OSU students, see posters both inside and outside dorm elevators that describe safe elevator behavior, and elevator safety is stressed during fall residence-hall meetings.

Ohio State has taken other measures to improve safety, such as installing video cameras in all its high-rise elevators this summer, in case someone gets trapped and as a way to help identify causes of mechanical malfunctions.

At least one student has sued the university over the accident that killed Polakowski.

Miles B. Morris of Powell was in the elevator when the 18-year-old was crushed between the ceiling of the elevator and the third-floor lobby of Stradley Hall on Oct. 20, 2006. Polakowski was trying to get off the overloaded elevator when it unexpectedly descended with its doors open.

Morris is suing Ohio State, Otis Elevator and Abell/Irvin Elevator Service, as well as companies affiliated with Otis and Abell, claiming defective design and construction and negligence.

He said the mental and emotional distress of seeing Polakowski die have required ongoing counseling. The lawsuit was filed against Ohio State in the Ohio Court of Claims and against the others in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

In a taped interview with OSU police the night of the accident, Morris said he was toward the back of the elevator when it began to descend with the doors open. He said Polakowski was in the front and tried to jump out but made it only halfway before he was crushed, his legs dangling in the elevator.

Polakowski's body stopped the elevator's descent, Morris told police.

Morris' attorney, Richard Schulte of Dayton, said he isn't aware of any other lawsuits over the accident. Morris did not respond to phone calls and e-mails.

Polakowski's family had not sued Ohio State or any of the related parties as of Friday. Under Ohio law, they have until today to file a wrongful-death suit.

His parents, Kazimierz and Janina, and family attorney, Tim Riley Jr., all of Erie, Pa., did not return phone calls seeking comment last week.

The Ohio Department of Commerce, which monitors the safety of Columbus elevators, concluded that the brakes failed in the Stradley elevator that killed Polakowski. Tests after the accident found that the elevator would not hold the amount of weight it was supposed to -- 3,125 pounds.

Load-weighing devices are being added or made operational on all high-rise OSU dorm elevators that would stop the elevator from moving if it reached 85 percent or more of its capacity, said Molly Ranz Calhoun, assistant vice president with OSU Student Life.

Rope grippers, devices that stop an elevator's fall, also have been installed or will be installed this year in all high-rise dorm elevators, she said. And an OSU employee with elevator experience is working full time rather than part time to oversee elevator maintenance.

Still, Calhoun said she wouldn't characterize OSU's elevators as safer than in 2006. "They were safe before, and they're safe now," she said.

Otis Elevator spokeswoman Cindy Szabo said the company won't answer questions about the case, because of the lawsuit. Otis manufactured the elevator and had the contract to service it until Oct. 1, 2006. Abell/Irwin, now known as Oracle Elevator Co., has had the OSU elevator-service contract since then. Neither company returned phone calls seeking comment.

Norm Martin, chief elevator inspector for Ohio, said equipment additions have improved OSU's elevators.

"They've been very proactive," he said of the university. Martin's department inspects elevators twice a year; that hasn't changed since the accident.

Ohio State paid for Polakowski's funeral, which cost $9,410, but has not paid the family any settlement, OSU spokeswoman Shelly Hoffman said.


This came from the Columbus Dispatch

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post a comment!


Oct 21 @ 2:28AM  
I think this kid who filed a lawsuit against the university is just looking for some furtune and easy living. There are going to be many things people are going to see in life, and some of them are going to be tragedies such as this and other events along the way in life. If a lawsuit is in order perhaps it should come from the deceased's family with his death. jmo

Oct 21 @ 3:01AM  
i agree, he shoulda joined the us army instead, they all should have,
they woulda been safer. college is such a waste of time for so many
people. sit, sit, sit and study. read, read, read. some people
just can't sit still that long.

Oct 21 @ 8:49AM  
WHo cou ld blame the guy in this ecomomy.....everyone is looking for a buck. Sue happy.

Oct 21 @ 3:30PM  
Could be frivolous, could be legitimate. Different people are affecting differently by events.

From what I've read, seems kind of frivolous to me because he waited close to 2 years before filing. Then again, my youngest sister used to know people who would cry "wolf" for the easy maybe my view is a bit jaded in this one.


Oct 22 @ 1:15AM  
I go to Ohio State, have been reading up on the issue since the day it happened.

What the parents have (for the most part) successfully suppressed the press from reporting is that there was a big group of kids on the elevator, jumping up and down on it simultaneously, trying to make it move. Why? Well, it IS Ohio State, not Harvard. Polo started to realize that this was stupid, and was killed both trying to leave the dangerous situation, and, ironically, involuntarily killing the other kids. No elevator aside from a heavy-duty freight elevator would have held up. People ride elevators every day whose brakes aren't quite up to listed capacity. Know why they don't die? They don't jump on them!

What pisses me off is that his family has not received compensation beyond the funeral. The university needs to compensate them further, and should go after the kids who were jumping on the elevator and their families to pay them back, since it really wasn't OSU's fault, either.

Oct 22 @ 1:16AM  

*involuntarily saving the other kids

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Elevator death spawns lawsuit: Frivolous or not?