Arnold & Itkin scores $841K verdict following personal injury trial against Schindler Elevator

By David Yates | Apr 3, 2019

BEAUMONT – For than a week, jurors heard testimony on whether Schindler Elevator was responsible for a man’s injuries. On April 2, they concluded the company was indeed negligent, handing down a verdict worth more than $841,000 in damages.

Originally seeking more than $1 million in damages, Darren Ceaser filed suit against MCM Elegante and Schindler Elevator on Oct. 12, 2017 in Jefferson County District Court.

According to the lawsuit, on Aug. 13, 2017, Ceaser was a guest at MCM Elegante. He was allegedly injured while riding an elevator when it failed to stop on the seventh floor and slammed into the top of the elevator shaft floor above.

The elevator became stuck and the panic button failed to work. Ceaser was forced to call 911 from his cell phone. The fire department arrived half an hour later.

The trial began March 25 and focused on several issues, including whether the hotel elevator had a faulty circuit board, which controls the position and speed of the elevator, or if a power surge caused the incident. 

During closing arguments, Ceaser’s attorney told jurors Schindler was “coming out and slapping band aids on the problem” and that the company conducted no investigation following the incident. 

The jury awarded Ceaser $239,754.82 for his past and future medical expenses, $450,000 for his past and future mental anguish, $150,000 for his past and future impairment and $2,000 for his past and future disfigurement.

Ceaser also alleged gross negligence and sought punitive damages.

Jurors, however, concluded the company was not grossly negligent.

Court records show MCM Elegante was granted summary judgment on Ceaser’s gross negligence claim, prompting him to file a motion for reconsideration.

MCM Elegante responded to the motion on March 15, asserting the court correctly held that not fact issue exists as to whether it had any actual knowledge that the elevator posed an unreasonable risk of harm and the Ceaser’s claims lie in premises liability, not negligent activity.

“Finally, the assertion that gross negligence is always inappropriate for summary judgment is an absurd proposition that stands in direct contradiction to established precedent, and this court appropriately granted MCM Elegante summary judgment on plaintiff’s gross negligence claim, accordingly,” the motion states.

The court did not grant the plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration, according to a courthouse official.

Ceaser is represented by attorneys for Arnold & Itkin in Houston.

Schindler Elevator is represented by Christopher Aubert.

MCM Elegante is represented by Germer attorney Karen Bennett.

Judge Baylor Wortham, 136th District Court, is presiding over the case.

Case No. D-200813

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Arnold and Itkin LLP Jefferson County District Court

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