$1.5 Million Settlement for Two Auto Parts Workers Injured in Elevator Accident

Court and County
Supreme Court, Bronx County

Description of Case
Our 2 clients worked in the auto parts department of a Manhattan car dealership. They both entered a freight elevator, attempting to transport parts from a basement level up to the 4th floor of the building. The elevator did not respond to their command. Rather, it travelled to the wrong floor and then descended unexpectedly to the bottom of the elevator shaft where it came to a hard landing. Neither client fell to the floor, but both felt a jolt to their bodies and experienced immediate knee pain. They left the elevator, went up to their supervisor's office and reported the incident.

Our investigation and discovery demands revealed that the subject elevator was known to have prior similar problems, by both the Defendant building management company and the Defendant elevator maintenance company. In fact, a nearly identical prior accident had happened involving the same freight elevator about 6 months earlier. We claimed that the building and elevator company were both negligent for failing to address those known elevator issues, which involved the failure of certain safety components that are supposed to bring the elevator to a normal and gradual stop. In the absence of those components functioning properly, we alleged, this elevator came to a stop on the "buffers" located at the bottom of the shaft. We further claimed that the elevator should have been completely modernized prior to this incident, due to its old age and consistent maintenance issues.

After the accident, both workers had ongoing pain and began courses of medical treatment. One suffered a left knee injury for which he attempted physical therapy and injections, before ultimately undergoing an arthroscopic surgery that addressed a meniscal tear and chondromalacia. The other client sustained a low back injury and was diagnosed with a herniated disc with impingement on the exiting nerve root. After attempting chiropractic care, physical therapy, trigger point and epidural injections, this client underwent a lumbar spine surgery involving laminectomy, facetectomy and partial discectomy (no fusion was performed). Both plaintiffs returned to work after the incident, one in a less physically demanding job at the same dealership, and another in a new field. Both plaintiffs had ceased medical treatment several years prior to settlement.

The defense contested the injury claims during the litigation. They claimed, among other things, that the impact of the freight elevator stopping did not involve forces significant enough to cause the claimed injuries. They further claimed that diagnostic tests revealed that the claimed injuries were the result of degeneration over time, as opposed to having been caused by this incident. We had experts of our own, who were prepared to testify that the forces involved here, while perhaps not terribly dramatic, were sufficient enough to cause the claimed tears and herniations. These, and other disputed issues, would have involved the jury evaluating the testimony of competing experts, had the case proceeded to trial.

Settlement Amount
The cases settled for a combined $1.5 Million following mediation, and about 2 months before the trial would have commenced.

Handling Attorneys
This case was handled by firm Partners Stephen J. Murphy and David L. Scher.