Doors and Floors

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Q: I was a security guard.  Early one morning, I arrived at work and pressed a button to summon the elevator.  When the elevator arrived, I entered and pressed the button for the top floor, intending to open up the rooms there and work my way down.  Before the elevator door could open at the top floor, the elevator cab suddenly dropped, causing me to fall and strike my head on the floor of the cab.  When I regained consciousness, the elevator cab was moving upwards.  It passed two floors, and finally stopped on the second highest.  The elevator door would not open, and I radioed the security desk.

My supervisor used a master key in order to lower the elevator to the ground floor, a process taking approximately 20 minutes, and then a group of employees needed to pry open the elevator door in order to release me.

According to an inspection report, approximately one month before the accident, an unspecified defect was discovered during a routine elevator inspection.  I have been told by an elevator mechanic that this kind of elevator failure could be due to a defect (1) in the door sensor, (2) in the elevator shaft’s relay equipment, (3) in the door belt or motor installed on the top of the elevator cab, or (4) in other mechanisms designed to control the cab’s movement and the opening of its door.  He says that, clearly, the elevator malfunction was caused by defective parts that should have been discovered during the course of inspections.

A: An elevator company which agrees to maintain an elevator in safe operating condition may be liable to a passenger for failure to correct conditions of which it has knowledge or failure to use reasonable care to discover and correct a condition which it ought to have found.

Importantly, you are entitled to invoke the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.  The requirements of this doctrine are met: (1) certainly, the misleveling and free-fall of the elevator was the kind of accident that would not ordinarily happen in the absence of negligence; (2) the building owner and elevator maintenance company had exclusive control over the mechanisms and devices in the elevator; and (3) and there is no indication that you in some way contributed to or caused this sequence of horrors.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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