CHARLESTON - A local musician who fell down an empty elevator shaft at the state's Cultural Center has filed a suit against the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, seeking compensatory damages for his injuries.

John Page Inghram Jr. of Putnam County filed the suit Dec. 13 in Kanawha Circuit Court against the Cultural Center and West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

Inghram, a professional electric bass guitarist was at the Cultural Center on Dec. 15, 2005, to perform as a member of the Bob Thompson Jazz Trio. The trio was performing as part of a holiday special.

"However, (Inghram) was not able to perform that evening and instead was horribly injured in a fall down an unmarked and unguarded elevator shaft," the suit says.

According to the suit, Inghram went to the Cultural Center and entered through the dock area. Inghram claims there were no signs or personnel to guide him to the stage floor, where he was to perform. However, a Cultural Center employee did offer to carry his bass guitar equipment, the suit says.

Inghram claims he declined because he could not afford to allow someone else to carry his equipment, which is and was very expensive, and the employee left.

The lawsuit says Inghram approached a set of double metal elevator door and thought they were stage entry doors. The suit says the area was very dark, making it difficult to see.

"Finding that he was alone in the hallway and knowing that he needed to get his heavy bass equipment set up for the performance and further believing that he was on the correct floor, Inghram opened the double metal elevator shaft doors and stepped into the shaft," the suit says. "As there was no elevator car on that particular floor, (Inghram) fell approximately 10 feet to the cement floor of the elevator shaft."

Inghram had to undergo extensive emergency surgery and had an 18-inch titanium rod implanted in his leg.

According to the suit, Inghram recalls there was no signage over or near the elevator doors that warned of the elevator shaft. He claims he easily opened the metal doors as they were not locked, barred, blocked or sealed in any way.

In the six-count suit, Inghram claims the Cultural Center and WVPB were negligent and failed to properly maintain a safe premise.

Inghram seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

The case has been assigned to Judge James Stucky.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-C-2665

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