$7.2 Million Wrongful Death Settlement for Family of Brooklyn Man Who Died After Falling Down an Elevator Shaft

Court and County

New York State Supreme Court, Kings County

Description of Case

Our client was a 25-year-old Brooklyn resident who became stuck alone in the elevator of a commercial building in which he was working. Unknown to him, the elevator had stopped suddenly in between the 4th and 5th floors, because of a power outage throughout the larger facility in which the building was located. After waiting for a period of several minutes, he attempted to escape the elevator by opening its doors and sliding out into the hallway. In doing so, he fell into the exposure that was created by the misleveled elevator car and crashed down 50 feet to the bottom of the shaft, suffering fatal injuries. While there was some uncertainty about how long he survived, he died at the bottom of the shaft very shortly after landing.

We filed suit against several entities whose negligence we alleged contributed to this tragic incident. Several companies were claimed to have been responsible for the power outage itself, which we claimed was caused by the negligent maintenance of an on-site power plant and the negligent act of a contractor who was performing testing on one of the plant's generators. We also sued the company responsible for maintaining the subject elevator. Among other things, we claimed the elevator lacked multiple safety features that could have prevented the plaintiff from escaping the elevator and that could have allowed for immediate communication between plaintiff and the outside world, such that plaintiff could have been calmed down and instructed to remain in the elevator until help arrived. On top of that, we sued the owner of the premises for, among other things, failing to maintain functioning emergency lighting that may have allowed plaintiff to see his surroundings clearly enough that he would have safely exited the elevator, rather than falling into the shaft as he did.

This was a fiercely defended lawsuit. Each defendant claimed to be free from blame, and each also argued that the plaintiff was the sole cause of his accident for choosing to escape the elevator rather than wait longer for help to arrive. The defendants made motions to dismiss the case, which we opposed and were all denied by the Court. As such, the case was scheduled to proceed to trial.

This tragedy was compounded by the fact that the plaintiff was survived by his 27-year-old wife and their 2 daughters, who were only 2 years old and 5 months old when he died. We claimed various damages for the family, including their loss of the decedent's future income, the daughters' loss of their father's guidance, the loss of the value of decedent's household services, as well as the pain and suffering and fear of imminent death he experienced before he expired.

Settlement Amount

We thoroughly prepared this case for trial, including the retention of several expert witnesses in the fields of electrical engineering, elevator mechanics, forensic pathology and economics. Following multiple mediations and settlement discussions, the case settled shortly prior to trial for $7,200,000.

Handling Attorneys

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