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Lobbyist wins lawsuit over malfunctioning elevator

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A circuit judge has awarded a disabled lobbyist nearly $35,000 because the elevator in his office building did not function reliably.

Larry Swann, whose office was located at 405 Capitol St. until recently, filed a lawsuit against the owners in an attempt to force them to keep some elevators in the historic landmark building working.

Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom granted an injunction against Midtown Center Associates in December, ordering them to have at least two functioning elevators. But at some times, they still did not.

Swann, who uses crutches to walk as a result of polio, was not able to access his office on the fifth floor of the building many times. He resorted temporarily to meeting clients at downtown locations, but once couldn't get parked and had to hold a meeting in his car.

In a hearing Monday, Swann said, "This is not good for business. Clients expect me to have an office and space for a meeting.

"It was not very professional," he said. "And it was embarrassing."  

The judge agreed and awarded Swann $25,000 for that annoyance and embarrassment. He also ordered the building's owners to pay the $2,300 it cost Swann to move to new quarters in Laidley Tower and his $7,500 in legal costs.

Swann said the intermittent problem with the elevators came at one of his busiest times of the year - just before and during the legislative session. He left the building in February.

Since the lawsuit was filed, Midtown Center Associates sold the 10-story building, which is the former Daniel Boone Hotel, to Capital Partners Inc. The new owner is not liable for the damages.

Ohio-based Capital Partners took over the structure in mid-January and has vowed to make improvements. The building provides office space to numerous tenants, including the Federal Government, state government, attorneys and U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller.

Swann said he often worried about his safety if there was a fire and he was unable to use an elevator. Once, a federal agency's office received a suspicious package and everyone was ordered to leave the building. The elevators weren't working.

"We were told to leave, and I'm left sitting in my office," he said.

Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at cherylc@dailymail.com or 304-348-4832.


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