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Lawsuits allege failings in Pennsylvania elevator shaft deaths of officer, prisoner

Several parties are being sued for their “individual and collective failures” over an elevator linked to the deaths of corrections officer Kristopher Moules and prisoner Timothy D. Gilliam Jr. Both men plunged 59 feet after an elevator door gave way July 18, 2016, at Luzerne County Correctional Facility.

On that day, Moules was providing meals to prisoners on the fifth floor of the Wilkes-Barre, Pa.,prison at 5:30 p.m. A prisoner got into a heated discussion with Moules, and Moules had him exit the cell block into a waiting area in front of the control booth.

Moules and the prisoner’s confrontation escalated, and Moules was ordered by the officer in the central booth to handcuff Gilliam. A struggle ensued and Gilliam crashed into the elevator door, pulling the guard with him as the door swung open from its base, a criminal investigation showed. Gilliam’s death was ruled accidental, while Moules’ was determined a homicide.

Families of both of the men filed suit. Named as defendants were Schindler Elevator Corp., Inventio AG, and Nagel Elevator Inspection and Testing LLC. Otis Elevator Co. was dropped from the litigation last month.

The lawsuit filed by Moules’ estate claims that there were other incidents where "incidental contact" with the elevator doors caused them to open contrary to the way they were designed. It cited inadequate elevator door equipment, including “wholly inadequate” and “undersized” guide/gibs, and alleged that inadequate inspections performed were contrary to industry custom, standard, and practice, and that the modernization of the elevator in 2001 did not ensure that all appropriate safety equipment was installed.




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