Taking on a case that took 10 years to bring to trial, a Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyer helped a Jacksonville woman win a $13 million jury verdict.
In 1999, Janice Beasley was in an elevator that malfunctioned and experienced a series of falls from the 23rd floor of what was then known as the Modis Building, now the 37-story Wells Fargo Center.
Beasley, who managed the copy center at Modis, the main tenant, was on her way up to the 25th floor when the car malfunctioned. She was alone in the service elevator with a metal cart loaded with printer cartridges.
Beasley, then 41, suffered permanent injuries, including post traumatic stress disorder and complex regional pain syndrome. Her lawsuit was filed in Duval Circuit Court in 2002.
Brad Edwards of Farmer, Jaffe, Weissing, Edwards, Fistos & Lehrman in Fort Lauderdale first examined the case earlier this year.
“This case was 13 years old,” Edwards said. “I thought immediately that this is not fair treatment of anybody and not the way our system is designed to work.”
Jay Howell of Jay Howell & Associates in Jacksonville had worked the case since 2007 and brought Edwards on board 10 weeks before trial. They worked as trial co-counsel.
Edwards said he was determined to get a trial because the defendants’ settlement offer was far below damages that had clearly changed Beasley’s life forever.
She continued to experience psychological injuries, including chronic depression, PTSD and conversion disorder, he noted. Because of the various physical and psychological injuries, she suffered extreme pain, partial paralysis in her left leg, pseudo seizures and has been wheelchair bound for many years.
After a 10-day trial before Judge Jack M. Schemer, the jury on Aug. 31 returned a verdict of $13.2 million against two defendants — Schindler Elevator Co. and the building owner, Highwoods Properties Inc. Beasley was awarded $11.2 million and her husband, Stephen, $2 million.
Schindler did not cause the elevator malfunction, but Edwards argued the Schindler mechanic responding to the malfunction didn’t remove Beasley when the car stopped at the eighth floor. He sent her down to the basement in a second series of falls.
Schindler’s negligence in responding to the malfunction caused Beasley physical and psychological injuries, he said.
“To make matters worse, Schindler employed every legal defense available, and the company proved it would go to great lengths to avoid responsibility for the life-changing harm it caused to Janice,” he said.
The Fort Lauderdale office of Sedgwick represented Schindler, and Dennis Schutt of Schutt, Schmidt & Noey in Jacksonville represented Highwoods Properties. No post-trial motions have been filed.