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Elevator injury victim wins $13 million judgment

Posted on in Premises Liability

Some advice for elevator mechanics everywhere courtesy of a Florida jury; take the passengers out of the elevator before trying to fix it. A 54 year-old woman who was bounced and jounced from the 23rd floor to the basement of a Jacksonville high rise office building was awarded millions of dollars in damages for her ordeal. The ride of terror left her with partial paralysis of her left leg, pseudoseizures, chronic depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, injuries that left her wheelchair-bound for years.

The $13 million judgment capped litigation that spanned more than a decade. In 1999 the woman was in the elevator on the 23rd floor of the building when the elevator malfunctioned. It dropped to the 8th floor and then stopped. An in-house mechanic employed by the Schindler Elevator Company was summoned to fix the balky lift. Rather than take the woman out of the car before working on it, he left her inside. The elevator then fell several more times - short falls arrested by safety devices - landing the car and its battered passenger in the building's basement.

After a two week trial the civil jury issued the award against Schindler Elevator Company and the owners of the high-rise office building. The jury decided that Schindler was not responsible for the initial plunge, but the mechanic's failure to get everyone out of the car before he attempted repairs was careless. Her attorney called that decision, "grossly negligent."

The case had been pending since 2002 and was repeatedly delayed by a series of legal complications. About two months ago a new law firm took over the case and quickly brought the matter to trial. The woman's attorney says the injuries his client suffered were "life changing."

Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel, "Elevator fall nets woman $13 million jury award," Robert Nolin, Sep. 7, 2012

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