Widow gets $2.17 million in elevator death

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008
— A Rock County jury Tuesday awarded a Janesville widow $2.17 million in the death of her husband.

Douglas A. Mellom, 44, died Oct. 30, 2003, after falling about 20 feet from the top of a cargo elevator at the Janesville General Motors plant, authorities reported at the time.

Maureen Mellom sued the company that manufactured the equipment that her husband was working on.

Attorney James D. Wickhem said this morning that the jury returned its verdict at 9 p.m. Tuesday after a trial that started Oct. 20.

The Melloms are a fine family that includes three teen-agers, and the widow can put the money to good use, Wickhem said.

"She's been doing the best she can in the last five years, but the Workers Compensation runs out," Wickhem said.

Douglas Mellom was a millwright. He was working on a platform, repairing the freight elevator, when he fell. The jury agreed that the elevator was defective and dangerous because it lacked guardrails.

Wickhem said the elevator's original design called for rails, but they were taken out of the design to save $1,000 to $1,500 on a cost of $1 million.

"It was definitely and unreasonably dangerous, and it was 100 percent the cause of his death," Wickhem said.

The Schindler Elevator Co. and Minnesota Elevator Inc. are responsible, the jury decided.

Wickhem called the verdict "a complete and total victory. The jury did exactly as I had asked and really as the evidence shows."

People blamed GM or Douglas Mellom for the accident at the time, Wickhem said, but the evidence showed that only the manufacturer was to blame.

"This is not rocket science, but the elevator industry had refused to insist on (guard rails) even though they knew the hazard was there," Wickhem said.

Other, similar deaths were documented on the same style of elevator, including a Schindler worker, Wickhem said.

A part of the award, $1.2 million to compensate for lost future wages, would have been greater, but the bleak situation of the GM plant reduced the estimate of what Mellom would have earned, Wickhem said.

Wickhem, from the Janesville law firm of Meier, Wickhem, Lyons & Schulz, represented the Mellom family with co-counsel Larry Barton.

Last updated: 10:36 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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