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Elevator accident results in liability win and ultimate settlement of $2,050,000 settlement.

On July 12, 2004, plaintiff G.D., 37, a store’s manager, was in the freight elevator at the Rego Park Mall, unloading a delivery when the elevator door came down, striking him in the back. Plaintiff claimed that he sustained injuries of his back. Plaintiff G.D. alleged that the defendants were negligent in their maintenance of the elevator. Plaintiff and the defendants negotiated a $550,000 pretrial settlement. The matter proceeded to a trial against defendant, S.E.


Plaintiff’s counsel claimed that the warning bell for the freight elevator door was not in compliance with state code because it did not provide sufficient warning time. He also claimed that the safety edge of the door was defective as it did not retract upon striking plaintiff. He contended that S.E did not engage in regular and systematic preventative maintenance. Plaintiff’s elevator expert explained that freight elevators and their safety features must be examined during a preventative maintenance check. During cross-examination, the defense’s elevator expert agreed. Defense counsel contended that the elevator’s door was not defective and that, if any defect existed, it was due to vandalism. Three elevator mechanics provided testimony regarding the use of a handheld computer and the procedures for entering data regarding service calls and preventive maintenance and for examining safety features of freight elevators during service calls and preventative maintenance calls. According to Plaintiff’s counsel the mechanics testified that the safety edges are not checked along the entire edge, which is prone to damage, during preventive maintenance checks.


Plaintiff claimed that he sustained a herniation of his L5-S1 intervertebral disc. He also claimed that he developed a bulge of his L3-4 disc. He underwent surgery that included a diskectomy, which involved the excision of his herniated disc, and fusion of the associated area of his spine. Plaintiff contended that he suffers a residual disability that prevents his resumption of work. He sought recovery of a total of $3.9 million to $4.6 million for his past and future lost earnings. He also sought recovery of damages for his past and future pain and suffering.


Defense counsel contended that plaintiff did not sustain a disc herniation and that any herniation was not caused by the accident. He claimed that plaintiff G.D, was able to return to work and was not disabled. He reported that surveillance videotape established that plaintiff is not totally disabled.


The jury found that S.E was 75-percent liable while the remaining defendants were 25-percent liable. During the first day of the trial’s damages phase, the parties negotiated a settlement. S.E’s insurer, which was also insured the remaining defendants, agreed to pay $1.5 million from its $2.05 million, of the pretrial settlement, Plaintiff’s recovery totaled $2.05 million.