Pennsylvania Woman Settles Federal Lawsuit Following Elevator Fall

A Philadelphia woman who filed a federal lawsuit following an elevator accident recently settled with the defendants. Last month, a U.S. District Court Judge announced the action was dismissed with prejudice, pursuant to an agreement.The plaintiff sued the elevator company, the property manager of the building, and the building’s owner. The amount of the settlement was undisclosed.

The plaintiff worked at a law firm in Philadelphia. Beginning in 2008, the property manager and the owner had a contract with the elevator company for the inspection and maintenance of the multiple elevators in the building. The elevator company kept a regular technician in the building on a daily basis.

On March 13, 2012, the plaintiff allegedly got into an elevator on the 35th floor and pressed the button to go to the lobby. According to her, the elevator dropped quickly and stopped hard before even reaching the 34th floor. The sudden stop threw her to the ground, causing serious back and knee injuries that necessitated surgery and resulted in continuing health problems. There were no direct witnesses to the incident. She reported it to her human resources director and the building security director several days later. An incident report indicated that a “drive fault” occurred on the day in question.

The plaintiff filed a complaint in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in April 2013. She argued the defendants’ failure to inspect or repair the elevator caused her knee and lower back injuries.

The defendants removed the case to federal court on the basis of diversity. (Pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, federal courts have original jurisdiction when the matter in controversy exceeds $75,000 and is between citizens of different states.) The case was removed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in July 2013.

In September 2015, the defendants filed motions for summary judgment. The judge denied both motions in November 2016, reasoning that the plaintiff set forth support for each of the necessary elements of her claim.

In so finding, he first explained that fundamental to any negligence claim is the nature of the duty a defendant has toward a plaintiff. The plaintiff and the elevator company both agreed that the scope of its contractual obligation was the reasonable inspection and maintenance of the elevator.

The other defendants argued that they had no duty to the plaintiff because they were not liable for the negligence of an independent contractor they hired. The judge explained that principle did not apply to the current case because it assumed that the source of their duties originated from their relationship with the elevator company, when in actuality their duties originated from the rules of premises liability. These defendants could not escape liability by pointing to their contract with the elevator company; the claim had to be assessed according to the normal rules of negligence and premises liability.

With respect to these defendants, the judge explained, the plaintiff had to show that her injuries were caused by their failure to protect against a risky condition of which they knew or reasonably should have known. With respect to the elevator company, the plaintiff needed to show it negligently undertook its contractual obligation to conduct reasonable inspections and maintenance of the elevator. The judge held that the plaintiff had adduced sufficient evidence to withstand summary judgment because she had made out a case from which the jury might reasonably conclude that the negligence was, more probably than not, attributable to the defendant.

Following the district court’s denial of the defendants’ motions for summary judgment, the trial was scheduled to begin in May 2017. However, as explained above, the case was settled prior to trial.

If you have been hurt on another party’s property, you may need the assistance of a premises liability lawyer to seek compensation. At the Neumann Law Group, our Massachusetts attorneys provide trustworthy legal representation to victims all over the state. Contact us toll-free at 800-525-NEUMANN or use our online form to set up a free consultation.

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