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DOORS AND FLOORS Q: I was a security guard. Early one morning, I arrived at work and pressed a button
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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.
John A. Golden: Member of K. of C. and C*KHS;
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
Thomas A. Golden III: Member AOH, KHS
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.
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