Philly Sheriff's Lieutenant Heads Home, Attorney Files Lawsuit Months After Courthouse Elevator Malfunction

Sgt. Paul Owens was hurt in an elevator accident in a Philadelphia courthouse over the summer

On the same day a Philadelphia sheriff's sergeant who was paralyzed in an elevator accident returned home, an attorney for the victim filed a lawsuit against the company that operates the city's Criminal Justice Center, where the incident took place.

Sheriff's Lt. Paul Owens was thrown across the elevator car "like a projectile" when the lift shot up to the building's top floor and smashed into the machine room back in August.

On Tuesday Owens' attorney sued US Facilities, the company which operates the CJC. The 22-page lawsuit accuses the company of failing to maintain, repair and inspect the elevator where the accident occurred.

The 20-year veteran suffered broken bones in his back. [[389196501, C]]

Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams -- who visited Owens during his recovery -- family members and fellow members of law enforcement greeted the lieutenant as he was released from Magee Rehabilitation Hospital Tuesday morning.

"There has never been a moment when Lieutenant Owens and his family have not been in our collective prayers," said Williams in a news release. "I am both proud and honored to be here to salute his ongoing recovery and to let him know he has the support of myself and the office as he heads home to his family and loved ones."

Owens used a motorized wheelchair as he left an elevator to talk to the reporters and said he was "feeling real good."

"It's unbelievable how much support I've had," said Owens. "I'm just happy this part is over with and I'm moving on."

Owens will not be able to return to his post or the sheriff's office because of the injuries, Williams said in the days after the incident. Owens will receive benefits for an officer injured in the line of duty. He also said there would be a job for him if and when he's ready to return to work. He will continue to undergo intensive rehab every day.

"I'm just happy to go home today," Owens said. "I just want to spend time with my family."

Owens was riding in a staff elevator when the malfunction happened. Debris from the crash also damaged a second elevator on the building's first floor. The woman inside that car suffered minor injuries.

The Stout Criminal Justice Center reopened after inspectors spent days checking the 17-story building's elevators. Sheriff Williams told NBC10 the staff elevators that malfunctioned are still out of service.

"We're very cautious even in any elevators since what happened to Paul," Williams said.

The city hired a new inspector since the accident but the actual inspection reports are being withheld until the State Labor Department concludes its investigation. As many as 6,000 citizens, attorneys and staff pass through the building at 13th and Filbert streets each day.

The investigation into the incident continues.

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