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Ruling upheld on elevator death

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Kevin Hoffman
May 13, 2011
— A state appeals court Thursday upheld a $2.17 million award to the widow of a General Motors millwright who fell to his death from a cargo elevator in 2003.

A Rock County jury determined during a seven-day trial in 2008 that Schindler Elevator Co. and another manufacturer failed to install guardrails, allowing 44-year-old Douglas A. Mellom to fall about 20 feet to his death. Schindler asked the District 4 Court of Appeals to overturn Rock County Judge James Welker, who had declined to dismiss the case.


Schindler argued GM made significant alterations to the design, the elevator was misused and the fall hazard was “an open and obvious danger.” The company also believed a citation issued to GM for violating workplace regulations by allowing use of the elevator should not have been admitted as evidence.


Maureen Mellom, who has three children, was awarded $2.17 million—$1.2 million of which was for lost wages. Mellom also filed suit against Minnesota Elevator Inc., but they reached a settlement prior to the jury’s decision, according to court documents.


The appellate court denied all three grievances filed by Schindler. The court acknowledged GM modified the elevator’s hatch but ruled it had nothing to do with the accident.


GM was forced to pay a $7,000 fine to the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration. OSHA found GM failed to provide fall protection in the area where Mellom was working.


Schindler argued it was entitled to a new trial because of the “cumulative effect of the trial court errors” is what led to the jury’s ruling, according to court records. That claim was denied.



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