Vietnam vet sues U.S. Govt. over injuries sustained in fall from wheelchair lift

By Jon Campisi | Dec 20, 2013

An amputee who served in Vietnam who sued the makers of a wheelchair

lift back in September over claims that he sustained injuries after falling from the device has now added the United States government to his list of those he blames for the accident.

Philadelphia resident Ronald Smiley who, along with his wife, Marilyn, sued New Jersey-based Artisan Builders and The Wheelchair Man Company earlier this fall, filed a separate complaint on Dec. 18 against the federal government over a Sept. 23, 2011, incident that occurred outside of his home.

At the time, Ronald Smiley, who requires the use of a motorized wheelchair because he lost his left leg during the Vietnam Conflict, rode his scooter onto the lift manufactured and installed by The Wheelchair Man and Artisan respectively when the locking mechanism on the device failed to engage, causing the plaintiff and his scooter to fall approximately 12 feet to the street below.

As a result of his fall, Smiley says he sustained various injuries to the discs in his neck that required medical treatment.

The plaintiff also claims that he has been unable to attend to his daily chores and activities as a result of the incident.

The latest complaint is being brought against the U.S. Government under the Federal Tort Claims Act because the Department of Veterans Affairs was responsible for purchasing the wheelchair lift for Smiley from The Wheelchair Man.

The plaintiff, the complaint says, would make “various applications to defendant for items needed to assist in ambulation and defendant would designate various providers for plaintiff to use relative to his needs.”

The company that installed the lift at Smiley’s Philadelphia home was Artisan Builders and Elevators.

The latest complaint accuses the government of negligence for failing to properly investigate whether Artisan could properly install the lift, failing to properly inspect and maintain the lift, failing to advise Artisan that the lift should not be modified, failing to oversee all individuals who rendered services to plaintiff, and failing to provide and maintain in good working condition the lift in question.

In the September lawsuit, Smiley and his wife accused the two companies of failing to properly install the lift, modifying the lift against the instructions of the manufacturer, and failing to properly install, inspect, maintain and repair the lift.

The previous suit seeks more than $150,000 in damages against the two companies while the latest complaint seeks the same amount of damages against the government.

Both lawsuits were filed by Philadelphia attorney Sayde J. Ladov of the firm Dolchin, Slotkin & Todd.


The federal case number is 2:13-cv-07411-CDJ.

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