The wife of a 51-year-old electrician killed when he was crushed by a falling elevator during construction of Baylor University’s new business school has filed suit against the general contractor, a subcontractor and two supervisors, asking for a jury trial and alleging they acted with “reckless disregard” for the risk of bodily injury.
The suit was filed on behalf of Mara Thaemert, of Waco, by the Houston law firm of Arnold & Itkin LLP. It does not name Baylor among the defendants, but the law firm released a statement that says, in part, “the university should recognize that Jeffrey Thaemert’s death was a completely preventable tragedy.
“Baylor should insist that the contractors that they hired to complete the prestigious new business school take responsibility for this senseless tragedy. The death of a husband and father of three is no acceptable sacrifice for the timely construction of the new Baylor Business School.”
The $100 million, 275,000-square-foot facility called the Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation opened earlier this year.
Named in the suit, which was filed in a Dallas County state district court, are California-based Rosendin Electric Inc., which has offices in Texas; Oklahoma City-based Flintco LLC, which served as general contractor for the project and has a presence in Texas; Illinois-based Kone Inc., which has an office in Dallas County; and individuals Howard Rick “Ricky” Edmiston, of Eddy, and Daryl Euguene Thompson, of Dallas, who both worked as Jeffrey Thaemert’s supervisors, the lawsuit contends.
The suit states that Kone Inc. was installing an elevator in the new business school on or about June 12 of this year and was responsible for its safe operation. It adds that Kone gave crews from Flintco full access to the elevator and shaft, and that Thaemert’s supervisors from Rosendin ordered him to work inside it.
“During this time, the elevator remained in operation instead of being locked out/tagged out,” the suit states. “In allowing access to the elevator shaft without ensuring the proper lockout/tagout procedure was in place and complied with, the defendants ignored the grave risks of working in an operational elevator shaft.”
It adds, “Sadly as a result of the defendants’ actions and inactions, Jeffrey Thaemert was crushed to death by the elevator.”
It went on to say that following the accident, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration faulted the defendants for failing to follow safety procedures.
The lawsuit includes a list of shortcomings it attributes to the defendants, saying they were grossly negligent by failing to create and enforce safety protocols for working around the elevator shaft, tag and lock the elevator, train and supervise employees, warn the plaintiff of hidden dangers and keep the premises free of known hazards.
The suit asks that Mara Thaemert and her estate be compensated for damages in excess of $1 million that include past and future loss of earnings, medical expenses, past and future pain and mental anguish, funeral and burial expenses, interest on damages, attorneys’ fees, expert witness fees and cost of the court.
Baylor University spokeswoman Lori Fogleman could not be reached for comment late Thursday afternoon.
“This is a terrible tragedy that saddens every member of the Baylor community,” the school said in a statement at the time of Thaemert’s death.
Messages left with Rosendin Electric, Flintco and Kone Inc. were not returned Thursday, and Thompson and Edmiston could not be reached for comment.
A week before the accident involving the business school, a Harris County Judge dismissed Baylor from a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a construction worker who drowned last year while building the pedestrian bridge to Baylor’s new $266 million McLane Stadium.
A hydraulic lift that Jose Dario Suarez and Terry Watson were strapped to rolled off a modular barge and into the Brazos River.
The men were tethered to the lift, but only Watson was able to free himself.