3 Accidents – Same Elevator - Strict Liability – Negligence – Unexpected 4 mph Stops

Three cases against elevator on behalf of three hospital workers who were injured on a hospital service elevator in three separate accidents involving sudden, unexpected 4 mph stops caused by negligently designed, manufactured and maintained elevator door safety edges. The unexpectedness of the stops caused significant injury to each worker in each of the three accidents (1staccident - fracture to the transverse process of the first lumbar vertebra, sensory neuropathy, depression, emotional stress and precipitation of diabetic condition; 2nd accident - complete obliteration of the intervertebral disk between the 4thand 5th lumbar vertebra, a compression fracture of the T-12 (thoraic) vertebral body, clinical depression; and 3rd accident - chronic pain syndrome, rupture of the cervical intervertebral disk between the 6th and 7th cervical vertebra).

The elevator was designed, manufactured and maintained by Otis Elevator Company, the world’s first and largest manufacturer and maintainer of elevators. Elevator experts testified on the issues of strict liability, negligent design, manufacture and maintenance of the elevator. A mechanical engineer testified for Otis that a four mile per hour stop on an elevator could not have caused injury. A rebuttal expert witness, a college professor, reputed author, and physicist, testified that considering issues of time vs. speed, change, weight, dynamic behavior, biomechanics, and gravitational forces, the medical physics of such an abrupt stop were sufficient to cause a intervertebral disk herniation.

Otis Elevator would not offer a fair settlements to any of the three workers and all three cases had to be tried in federal court before three separate juries that returned verdicts for each plaintiff that totaled $1.5 million, the amount these plaintiffs requested in settlement but were denied and all eventually collected with interest. Two of the cases involved appeals before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit concerning legal issues regarding strict liability, negligent design, manufacture, evidence of prior similar accidents, and res ipsa loquitur. In one of the cases, even though the plaintiff had been awarded a verdict he could not collect on the judgment because the federal judge was taking an inordinate amount of time to rule on post-trial motions. An extraordinary appellate procedure was employed when a writ of mandamus was filed on behalf of the plaintiff seeking from the U.S. Court of Appeals an order that the federal judge rule on the post-trial motions, The federal judge ruled shortly after the filing of the writ and the judgment was then paid by Otis. This triple triumph was the subject of news articles in The Washington Times, July 31, 1987, “David Beats Goliath Third Time” and D.C. Legal Times, August 3, 1987 article “Ups and Downs”.

Elevator - Defective Leveling and Controller Devices -Rapid Acceleration - Stop

National Labor Relations Board employee injured when elevator rapidly accelerated, then rapidly descended, and then suddenly stopped. Defendant failed to replace and maintain leveling and controller devices. Case reported in Metro Verdicts Monthly, Volume 6, Number 1, page 3, Elevator Sudden Acceleration & Stop Maintenance.

Collapsed Bicycle Frame – Defective Manufacture -Metallurgy- Ruptured Spleen

Suit by Virginia Tech student/bicyclist against several major bicycle manufacturers the collapse of their bicycle frame under normal riding conditions that resulting abdominal trauma and the loss of his spleen. Expert testimony of Virginia Tech Professor of Metallurgy concerning negligent metallurgic design and improper treatment of metallurgical compounds in the manufacturing process facilitated the settlement of the case in private mediation agreed upon by all parties.

WMATA - Bus - Defective Door Interlock Safety Device – Injury to Exiting Passenger

Suit against Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) on behalf of passenger injured due to defective door interlock safety device. The case was the subject of WUSA Channel 9 television interview and news report, April 24, 1987.