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Product Liability Claims for Residential Elevator Defects

Product Liability Claims for Residential Elevator DefectsAll manufacturers have a duty to ensure their products are safe from defects that can cause an accident. Defects include faulty design, poor workmanship, and a failure to warn of known defects/inadequate instructions for use. The makers, distributors, and sellers of defective products can be held liable if their products cause accidents that injure you or take the life of a loved one.

The Washington Post recently reported that three companies agreed to recalls of their residential elevators because of a safety hazard that was killing and injuring children for decades:

  • Bella Elevator
  • Inclinator
  • Savaria

Two companies, ThyssenKrupp Access and Waupaca Residential Elevators, are still refusing to comply with the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) request that the residential elevator manufacturers inform and notify consumers of the safety hazard.

The CPSC filed a complaint against ThyssenKrup Access in 2021 for noncompliance with the recall request. They also issued a public warning in January 2022 that people should stop using Waupaca Residential Elevators products and “lock them down” until an inspection can take place.

According to the Washington Post, many home elevators are dangerous because there is enough space between the outer and inner doors for a child to get into, which can crush the child when the elevator moves to another floor. In one case, a seven-year-old child was killed at a North Carolina beach home. According to the CPSC, while the accidents are rare, they are often catastrophic. When the alternative to death or permanent injuries is a $100 plastic or foam guard to fill the space between the doors, it is irresponsible for manufacturers not to make the repair.

And yet some companies refuse to do so. The manufacturers have argued that the “problem was complicated and not their responsibility, a 2019 Washington Post investigation found.” Since 2017, industry regulations require that the gap be closed.

About the CPSC recalls

The CPSC recently issued a recall of residential elevators when “Otis Elevator Co. voluntarily agreed to inspect and repair about 5,000 home elevators.” The three additional companies are recalling approximately 69,000 residential elevators. The CPSC estimates that “100,000 to 200,000 home elevators could have a dangerously wide door gap.”

So far, the elevators made by the three manufacturers who agreed to the most recent recall have not had any entrapment accidents. However, a home elevator manufactured by Waupaca was, according to the CPSC, involved in an accident involving a four-year-old who was found “discovered dangling by his foot in the elevator shaft.” Fortunately, the child survived but the accident blinded the child. Another four-year-old-boy was lucky to avoid serious injury “after being trapped under a ThyssenKrupp Access elevator at his grandparents’ home.”

The CPSC states that until the recalls, the industry resisted addressing the dangers.

Why are product manufacturers liable for accidents from product defects?

There are two theories for product liability claims in Arizona: strict liability, and negligence.

Under strict liability, the buyers of products that are defective do not have a duty to show the manufacturer was negligent: that it failed to comply with industry standards, regulations from the Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA), or that the manufacturer failed to act reasonably. There’s no need to show the manufacturer failed to conduct safety tests or work with qualified engineers. All one needs to prove is that the condition of the product was “unreasonably dangerous” from the time it left the manufacturing facility, and that it was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury. There is generally no duty on the part of the homeowner to inspect the products such as residential elevators that they use. There is especially no duty for a four-year-old or anyone under 18 years of age to inspect the product.

Under the theory of negligence, the victim or plaintiff must show that the manufacturer owed its consumers a reasonable duty of care, breached that duty of reasonable care, and that this breach resulted in injuries. So, in a case involving an elevator injury, a plaintiff would argue that the elevator manufacturer should have created a safe, gap-free design, and because they failed to do so, a child was hurt or injured as a result.

The elevator manufacturers are in the best position to determine the safety of their products. They have a proactive duty to make sure the product is safe. This is why elevator claims could arise from either theory.

Who else could be liable in an elevator accident leading to injury?

There could be multiple liable parties. In cases involving residential elevators, both the installation company and the maintenance company could also be liable.

In cases involving commercial elevators, such as the ones found in hotels, office buildings, retail outlets, and other professional and private properties, the liable parties may include:

  • Owners/operators of the building
  • Maintenance companies
  • Repair companies
  • Installation companies

Third parties associated with Phoenix wrongful death claims from defective elevators

If a child dies due to a product defect, our seasoned personal injury lawyers file wrongful death claims against the responsible defendants. In Arizona, the parents of a child killed by a product defect can file a wrongful death lawsuit and claim damages for all reasonable expenses.

At Plattner Verderame, P.C., our Phoenix product liability lawyers work with product safety experts who examine products that cause accidents. These experts can determine if a product such as a home elevator is defective, what the defect is, and why the defect happened. We also work with physicians who diagnose injuries, explain what long-term care is required, and describe why a victim is in so much pain.

Plattner Verderame, P.C. has represented injury clients in cases against a variety of product manufacturers. We recently obtained a settlement on behalf of a client who fell three stories and suffered significant injuries, all because of a defective, dangerous elevator. Contact us to learn more about how we can help.

Our product liability lawyers have been fighting for personal injury victims and their families for 30 years. We have a strong track record of success negotiating settlements and trying cases before juries. We handle product liability claims and wrongful death claims on a contingency fee basis. To speak with an attorney, please call us at 602.266.2002 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment at our Phoenix or Tempe office.