JACKSONVILLE, Florida – Three siblings say the death of their mother, who was injured in an affordable Jacksonville seniors community, could have been prevented.
According to a complaint filed in Duval County, a woman died after tripping and falling into a dangerous elevator at Cathedral Towers in the city center. The family complaints management knew that there were problems with the elevator, but did not provide any solutions. In court records, the company says it did nothing wrong.
Betty Wyche’s children claim she was never the same after falling in an elevator at Cathedral Towers in 2019. She was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury.
The family turned to an Orlando-based law firm to file a complaint claiming the management of Cathedral Towers was negligent.
Lawyer Bruce Batts provided News4JAX I-TEAM with depositions from former employees.
“The employees testified that management knew this elevator had a hole in the middle of the floor and they did nothing about it,” Batts said.
One said the elevator floor was damaged when contractors pulled it off the planks to take a look at what was underneath – then construction made matters worse. She said she had brought it to the attention of managers, who said, “We already know this is going to be fixed during the renovation. We are not paying for this floor because the construction ruined it. They said this conversation took place months before Wyche’s downfall.
This employee also estimated that the building had received more than 10 elevator complaints since 2013 – issues included the elevator jumping up floors, getting stuck and not lining up evenly with the floor.
“Six inches maybe, 7 inches, 7 inches, 8 inches, whatever,” said Willie Myles, Wyche’s son.
Wyche’s kids say they had complained about the elevator themselves before.
“I went to the front desk several times and complained and they said they were going to put it in writing and they would get the problem, the problem would be fixed, and they didn’t”, said said Buesounq Callie Ford-Drew, Wyche’s daughter.
In another deposition, the CEO of the Cathedral Foundation said she was aware that the elevator sometimes did not stop at ground level. She estimated that three residents came to her with concern that the elevator was not level over a period of about seven years.
In documents filed in response to the court, the defendants claim that Wyche did not trip over a hole in the elevator. They also say that Wyche herself was negligent and that their actions caused no injury.
“Now you’re asking people in their 70s, 80s, 90s to go through, basically, what should be called an obstacle course,” Batts said.
Wyche passed away in July, leaving behind three children, seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
“It could be your mother, your aunt. It could be anyone, but they’re still human, ”said Juanita Ford, Wyche’s daughter.
More than a year after filing a complaint, Wyche’s family members say they want to make sure the elderly have a safe place to live and that what happened to their mother doesn’t happen to anyone else.
Both parties ask a jury to rule in their favor.
The Cathedral Towers property manager told I-TEAM he could not comment on the pending litigation.
The Cathedral Towers website says the facility was recently renovated with work worth $ 14 million, but management did not respond to questions about when the renovations were completed.
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