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Premises liability: elevator shaft on school grounds?

Posted on in Premises Liability

When people hear the phrase "premises liability", they often think of an icy sidewalk or inadequate security. Premises liability claims can arise when someone suffers an injury due to a property owner or manager's negligence. But what constitutes negligence?

This might be a question that the parents of three high school students are wondering. Three girls were trapped in an elevator shaft in their middle school for 40 minutes. They suffered minor injuries, but the question still remains: how did this happen?

Though the incident is still under investigation, school officials believe they know what happened based on the accounts from the three girls.

They had decided to use the elevator instead of the stairs. Typically students don't use the elevator unless they have been injured or cannot use the stairs. Additionally, the elevator is supposed to be locked at all times to limit access.

According to the girls, they were able to walk into the elevator. Unfortunately they realized too late that they had actually stepped into the elevator shaft, rather than the elevator itself. The door had locked behind them and there was no way out. The elevator began to lower on top of them, forcing them to lie on the ground and hope that the elevator would stop. The elevator car did stop and the girls were eventually rescued.

So did negligence play a role in this accident? Why was the elevator shaft left unlocked? Hopefully when the investigation is closed, these questions and more will be answered.

Source: ABC News, "Girls Trapped Under Elevator: 'I Was Like, We're Going to Die'," Christina Ng, Nov. 17, 2011

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