JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three siblings say the death of their mother, who was injured at a Jacksonville affordable senior community, could have been prevented.
According to a lawsuit filed in Duval County, a woman died after she tripped and fell on an unsafe elevator at Cathedral Towers downtown. The family claims management knew there were issues with the elevator but failed to fix them. In court filings, the company claims it did nothing wrong.
Betty Wyche’s children claim she was never the same after a fall on an elevator at Cathedral Towers in 2019. She was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.
The family turned to an Orlando-based law firm to file a suit claiming the management at Cathedral Towers management was negligent.
Attorney Bruce Batts provided the News4JAX I-TEAM with depositions from former employees.
“Employees have 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 up the planks to take a look at what was underneath — and then construction made it worse. She claimed she brought it to the attention of managers, who said, “We already know, it’s going to be addressed during the renovation. We are not paying for that floor because construction messed it up.” They said that conversation happened months before Wyche’s fall.
That employee also estimated the building received more than 10 complaints about the elevator since 2013 — the issues included the elevator skipping 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 children say they had previously complained about the elevator themselves.
“I went to the front desk several times and complained and they said, was going to put it in writing and they would get the problem, the issue taken care of, and they didn’t,” said Buesounq Callie Ford-Drew, Wyche’s daughter.
In another deposition, the CEO of the Cathedral Foundation said she was aware of the elevator sometimes not stopping flush with the floor. She estimated three residents had come to her with concerns about the elevator being unlevel over a period of about seven years.
In court filings in response, the defendants claim Wyche didn’t trip on a hole in the elevator. They also say Wyche herself was negligent and their actions didn’t cause any injuries.
“Now you’re asking 70-, 80-, 90-year-old people to go through, basically, what should be termed as obstacle course,” Batts said.
Wyche died in July, leaving behind three children, seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
“This could be your mother, your auntie. It could be anybody, but they’re still human,” said Juanita Ford, Wyche’s daughter.
More than a year after filing suit, Wyche’s family members say they want to make sure seniors have a safe place to live and what happened to their mother doesn’t happen to anyone else.
Both sides are asking a jury to rule in their favor.
The manager for the Cathedral Towers property told the I-TEAM that they could not comment on pending litigation.
The Cathedral Towers website says the facility has been newly renovated with $14 million worth of work, but management has not responded to questions about when the renovations were done.