CHARLESTON – Columbia Gas has asked the federal court to dismiss a case a Kanawha County man filed against it in which the man alleges he was injured after an elevator in the Columbia Gas building fell a few stories.

The gas company has also filed a cross-claim against Murphy Elevator, alleging Murphy should be required to pay any defense costs that arise out of the litigation.

Donald White, a security guard at the Columbia Gas building on MacCorkle Avenue in Charleston, was riding in an elevator on Nov. 3, 2007, when it malfunctioned and fell several floors, according to the complaint White filed Jan. 22 in Kanawha Circuit Court.

At some point during the fall, the elevator "violently stopped and caused an injury to Mr. White's left knee," the suit states.

Eventually, White required surgery on his knee and was ordered off work for about five months for medical treatment and recuperation time, White alleges.

Columbia denies that its wrongful conduct caused White's injuries and claims that the cause of the incident was a condition beyond the company's control.

In its answer to White's complaint, Columbia contends it is not liable for any damages White sustained.

When Columbia hired Murphy to perform maintenance on elevators at its building, a general services agreement between the two companies provides that Murphy will defend Columbia Gas should any claims arise from work Murphy performed on the elevators, according to the cross-claim Columbia filed.

"In reliance upon the terms in the General Services Agreement, Columbia Gas sought the defense of, and indemnification for, the instant civil action under the policy of commercial general liability insurance issued to Murphy," the suit states.

However, Murphy's insurance provider has refused to supply Columbia Gas with the defense it sought, Columbia claims.

In its answer to Columbia's complaint, Murphy admits that it did enter into a contract with the gas company, but denies that it is supposed to be held responsible for Columbia's defense.

The company also claims it is not at fault for the incident.

"Murphy reserves unto itself the defense that the injuries and damages of which the plaintiff complains, if any, were proximately caused or contributed to by persons, corporations or entities other than this defendant, and, accordingly, that recovery or relief against this defendant is barred," its answer states.

In his suit, White is seeking unspecified damages, plus pre- and post-judgment interest, costs, attorney's fees and other relief the court deems appropriate.

In its cross-claim, Columbia is seeking a judgment against Murphy for all money awarded to White, plus costs and attorneys' fees.

If the court decides not to award Columbia with that judgment, the company is seeking a contribution to any judgment rendered in favor of White and other relief the court deems just.

Columbia removed the case to federal court because the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

White is represented by James R. Akers II of Akers Law Offices in Charleston.

Columbia is represented by Joanna I. Tabit and Lindsay Agee of Steptoe and Johnson in Charleston.

Murphy is represented by Gary W. Hart and William B. King of Jackson Kelly in Charleston.

U.S. District Court case number: 2:009-0157

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