A Tragic Accident


Last week, a Boston University lecturer was killed when the elevator in her apartment building suddenly crashed to the ground. The terrible accident is still being investigated. Witnesses say moments before the accident, the victim, 38-year-old Carrie O’Connor, was trying to load a package into the elevator, when the elevator suddenly dropped between floors. It is still unclear exactly how Ms. O’Connor was killed.

Neighbors of the victim describe the apartment building’s elevator as “old style”. The elevator had a “regular” elevator door, in addition to an accordion-style cage that must be closed in order for the elevator to operate. State regulators indicate that the elevator had recently been inspected and certified.

An investigation into the exact cause of the accident continues.

Elevator and Escalator Accidents Are Rare

Most people don’t think twice about stepping onto an elevator. However, risks, although minimal, exist. According to the CDC and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, incidents involving elevators and escalators kill approximately 30 people and seriously injure approximately 17,000 more each year in the United States. Nearly half of the deaths include those installing, repairing, and maintaining elevators, or working in or near elevator shafts.

CDC Recommendations Concerning Elevator and Escalator Safety

The CDC’s recommendations to prevent elevator- and escalator-related injuries include ensuring that: 1) Workplace protective practices and training are adequate. In particular, this includes: 1.De-energizing and locking out electrical circuits and mechanical equipment when elevators and escalators are out of service or being repaired. 2. Establishing a permit-required confined space program for elevator shafts. 3. Providing fall protection during work in or near elevator shafts. 4. Ensuring that employers have an adequate inspection and maintenance program. 5. Ensuring that employers use only qualified workers for escalator and elevator repair and maintenance.

In Case of an Accident Who is Held Liable?

In the case of an elevator or escalator accident, property owners or an elevator maintenance company are normally the primarily liable parties. The building owner is ultimately responsible for all installation and maintenance operations. If any issues exist with the installation or repair of an escalator or elevator, the property owner is in charge of identifying those issues and correcting them. The maintenance company servicing the elevator could also be a liable party. Shared liability may exist if the repair company is at fault for making a mistake, which the property owner failed to correct. Lastly, the manufacturer of the elevator or escalator (as well as a manufacturer of individual parts of the elevator or escalator) could be held liable. If the elevator and escalator or any of its parts were designed or installed improperly, it is up to the installer or maintenance company and the property owner to ensure that any issues are corrected.

If you or someone you know is involved in an accident and you have any legal questions, please contact Scott Bonebrake. Scott is a general practitioner in Media, PA, and has been a licensed attorney for 25 years. If you have any legal questions, please feel free to contact Scott at 610-892-7700, or at sbonebrake@noelandbonebrake.com.