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Family of heart-attack victim who spent 30 minutes stuck in an Allston elevator with EMTs sues elevator company, condo trust and building manager for his death the next day

The daughter of Boston Opera Company co-founder Randall Kulunis yesterday filed a negligence suit that alleges her father might have lived had he not got stuck in the elevator of his Allston condo building for half an hour with EMTs who were trying to get him to the hospital after he fell ill.

Her suit on behalf of herself and other heirs and filed yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court, names Stanley Elevator, 533 Cambridge Street Condominium and R. Brown Partners, Inc.

Kulunis, who started the opera company with his brother Robert, was 65 when he "suffered a medical emergency" in his second-floor condo and called 911 on May 27, 2020, according to the suit. EMTs came, loaded him on a gurney and into the building elevator.

And then, the suit continues, the elevator got stuck.

It was 30 minutes before Boston firefighters arrived and cracked open the door, letting EMTs get Kulunis out and into an ambulance for the one-mile ride to St. Elizabeth Medical Center, the suit alleges. He died the next day.

As a result of Defendants' gross negligence, Decedent was delayed in receiving necessary medical care, resulting in his death.

The suit says none of this would have happened had Stanley properly maintained the elevator it installed or if the condo trust and R. Brown Partners, contracted to manage the building, had either paid more attention or warned residents the elevator was in bad shape.

On Sept. 11, 2020, WHDH reported the elevator had repeatedly malfunctioned - and that Boston Fire Department records showed firefighters had been called to the building seven times in two years to rescue people from it when it got stuck between floors.

The suit seeks $3 million in damages, plus costs and attorneys' fees.

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Comments

The lawsuit alleges, several different times and in different ways, that the decedent died (later that night) from his heart attack because he was stuck in the elevator with the EMTs for a half an hour, rather than being at the hospital sooner.

The assertion is unprovable, but that might not stop experts from testifying both for and against. It's payday for someone, not necessarily the family.

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Voting closed 15

It probably can't be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but that's not the burden of proof for negligence. Heart attacks are a pretty heavily studied health condition, the difference that a half hour can make isn't some unquantifiable mystery. It's definitely bad luck that things worked out this way, but bad luck isn't an excuse for negligence. (I am, of course, not a lawyer.) The case does seem like it would hinge on several technical questions I don't know the answer to, but if someone gets stuck in an elevator when seeking urgent medical care and then dies it's not exactly some unknowable speculation to draw a causal link.

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Voting closed 42

No mention of a heart attack. The complaint only refers to a "medical emergency".

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Voting closed 8

The WHDH story includes an interview with his brother, who says he had a heart attack.

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Voting closed 22

It took BFD 30 minutes to respond? Thats a really long delay in calling them in. Engine 41 and Ladder 14 are less then 3 minutes away so why were they not called in sooner?

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Voting closed 21

BFD boosts they have one of the quickest response rates in the country. It is impressive how Boston (and the whole region) will shuffle units so that no area of the city is understaffed while responding to a call.

As for the lawsuit, it will likely be settled out of court.

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Voting closed 13

for them to pry the doors open, not that it took them 30 minutes to respond. Not sure why it took so long to get the doors open, however...

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Voting closed 42

R. Brown is Ronald Brown, younger brother of Harold Brown, late of the Hamilton Company and all kinds of other apartment-related stuff that people around here with long memories will know about.

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Voting closed 39

Boston Fire Department records showed firefighters had been called to the building seven times in two years to rescue people from it when it got stuck between floors.

Getting stuck between floors 7 times in just 2 years is way out of the ordinary and a sign that elevator function was a long-standing issue that should have been fixed much earlier.

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Voting closed 41

People get stuck in elevators (for a few minutes) all the time. That's not necessarily negligence...it's just the way things are. However, a building that has had that many recent fire department calls for the elevator is not a "well-maintained" building. I find for the plaintiff.

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Voting closed 27

But should a 30 minute delay be a $3 million problem? Getting crushed by an elevator would be a $3 million problem. Getting stuck in one for half hour sounds like a $100 problem.

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Voting closed 8

Most people don’t even have elevators. Especially people on the second floor like this guy. Are they entitled to an elevator if there’s a staircase?

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Voting closed 4

This has nothing to do with entitlement - your favorite word. The building had an elevator. Period. Whether the maintenance of this elevator is relevant to Brown's death is for the lawyers to battle over.

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Voting closed 27

EMTs would have strapped him to a Stair Chair and rolled him out of the building. EMTs in general are experienced with those and urban EMTs in a city full of walkups are most certainly proficient in using one.

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Voting closed 7

then it should have been removed, or clearly marked as out of order and locked.

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Voting closed 20

Elevator malfunctions seven times in two years and nobody at BFD thinks to call ISD? Was this Not My Job, or was this "rich condo association, don't make waves", or just the usual Boston "left hand not knowing what the right is doing" routine? Christ, there are rural counties run more competently, and in a more modern fashion, than Boston.

Why isn't ISD automatically assigned a high priority inspection after firefighters are called out for an elevator malfunction?

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Voting closed 5

This quote was in an article about the man who had a heart attack on the commuter rail in 2002 and they continued making stops. This story reminds me of that case.

"Experts said a victim in cardiac arrest has a 50-percent chance of survival if the heart can be shocked with a portable defibrillator within 5 minutes, but that the rate of survival goes down about 10 percent every minute thereafter."

Here's the article where the quote is from
https://www.upi.com/Top_News/2002/08/01/Amtrak-heart-victim-dies-after-d...

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Voting closed 11

Heart attack and cardiac arrest are two different things.

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Voting closed 6

Now I do.

I suppose one could result in the other.

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Voting closed 5

Do EMTs typically carry a portable defibrillator with them into the site of the call?

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Voting closed 3

I got stuck in an elevator at the prestigious 60 State Street once. The sound of silence when pressing the assistance button. Called front desk from cell phone. Couldn't understand what he was yelling at me. Yep. So I called Fire Dept. They arrived and took over . Got out after 20 mins thanks to BFD. And that was right after 9/11 so ...yeah. Um, yeah.

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Voting closed 7

Why didn't they take him down the stairs? I would think in emergencies they would do that (only one flight?)

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Voting closed 5

You can’t even get sofas down some stairs.

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Voting closed 5

Half of Boston couldn't be evacuated if a flat stretcher were the only option. They also have upright chair stretchers that they can carry a person down even the windiest set of stairs. I have witnessed these in use, and the EMTs are quite amazing in how they manage. That said, they probably prefer to use a wheeled flat stretcher when there appears to be a viable option. In this case, they couldn't switch to stairs once they realized the elevator wouldn't work.

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Voting closed 14

If only they had a way of knowing the elevator was unreliable. A terrible place to die.

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Voting closed 5

Only he didn't die in the elevator. Facts are stubborn things.

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Voting closed 6

If only they had a way of knowing facts are stubborn things.

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Voting closed 3