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$7,000,000 for Worker Who Suffered Serious Injuries After Falling 30 Feet Down an Elevator Shaft

In a New York case, our client was working at an iconic Manhattan building. During the course of his work, his back came into contact with elevator doors, which gave way and caused him to fall 30 feet down the elevator shaft. He suffered serious crush injuries, requiring a total of 9 surgeries. As a result of his injuries, our client now has limited mobility and is only able to walk short distances with a cane. The case was hard fought, as the Defendants argued that the client was also responsible for the accident. Partners Scott Occhiogrosso and Daniel O’Toole were able to recover a $7,000,000 settlement for the injured worker.

Court and County
Supreme, New York

Plaintiff Description
Client was a Tibetan immigrant, married with three children, and working as a cardboard box baler in a major food outlet store located in an iconic Manhattan building.

Description of Case
At the time of the accident, Plaintiff was maneuvering a pallet jack and his back came in contact with the shaft way doors of an elevator. The shaft way doors gave way, causing Plaintiff to fall into the elevator shaft and plummet approximately 30 feet.

On behalf of the Plaintiff, we pursued causes of action against the building owner and the elevator maintenance company for the building. We argued that the building owner had a non-delegable duty to the public to maintain the building in a reasonably safe condition, and that this duty included taking the necessary steps to ensure that the elevators were in proper working order. Evidence obtained in discovery showed that the subject elevator had a “P” rating – for “passenger”, rather than an “F” rating for freight. Generally speaking, freight elevators and their shaft way doors have a greater ability to withstand contact from machinery or cargo than do passenger elevators. The evidence showed that the building owner was on notice that Plaintiff’s employer was routinely using the subject elevator for freight purposes and repetitive contact with the shaft way doors was a known problem. We argued that the owner failed in its duty to the public in failing to take the necessary steps to convert the subject elevator to freight capacity. We obtained testimony and documents that proved that the elevator maintenance and repair contractor had presented the building owner with a proposal to upgrade the subject elevator and replace the shaft way doors and their framing. It was our position that the owner’s failure to act on the proposal was evidence of their negligent failure to keep the building reasonably safe

With regard to the elevator repair and maintenance contractor, evidence and testimony showed that there were more than fourteen service calls for the subject elevator in the six month period leading up to the accident date. It was our position that the elevator company did insufficient “band-aid” fixes on the subject elevator rather than the more thorough and appropriate repairs that should have been made. Specifically we argued that the reinforcements on the tracking for the shaft way doors – known in the industry as door gibs – were not properly installed and maintained and they were not strong enough for the known use of the subject elevator.

With regard to the third party action, defendants argued that the pallet jack is a powerful and potentially dangerous piece of equipment that should only be used by employees trained in its proper use. Evidence showed that the subject pallet jack was freely accessible to all employees and the keys to the machine were left in the machine with the machine in the “on” position. Defendants argued that it was the horizontal force of the pallet jack moving backwards that caused the door gibs on the shaft way doors to break free. Defendants argued that Plaintiff used the pallet jack improperly and that this negligent operation of the machine caused the accident. Defendants argued that both Plaintiff and his employer were to blame for the subject accident.

Plaintiff suffered severe crush injuries in his feet and ankles and was forced to undergo 9 total surgical procedures. Plaintiff’s mobility is severely limited and he is now only able to walk short distances with a cane.

Settlement Amount
Prior to trial, we successfully negotiated a settlement for $7,000,000, with both defendants and the third party defendant contributing to the resolution.

The case was handled by firm partners Scott Occhiogrosso and Daniel O’Toole.

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