Criminal/Civil Cases Possible in Elevator-Death

A criminal investigation has been launched by the Manhattan District Attorney in the tragic elevator death of an advertising executive at Y&R. Suzanne Hart was killed when the elevator at Y&R’s Madison Avenue headquarters crushed her between the first and second floors on December 14.

Initial reports said there were no “safety issues” when the elevator was last inspected in June, 2011. But Tony Sclafani, a spokesperson for the Department of Buildings, said that there were many violations issued in the past but all were for “administrative or non-hazardous conditions.” In the aftermath, 11 violations were written against the building’s 13 elevators.

According to the New York Post, the only violation written against the elevator that killed Ms. Hart, was one regarding problems with paperwork. Other, “more serious” issues were found on the 25-story building’s other elevators.

The DA’s criminal investigation is said to be focusing on electrical work that was performed on the elevator just hours before Hart was killed, though they have still not definitely identified what caused the malfunction.

As Hart went to enter the elevator, it lurched upwards with the doors still open. Hart could not escape and her body ultimately stopped the elevator from ascending further. Two people were in the elevator at the time and they were not physically injured, but were no doubt traumatized by what they saw. Hart was pronounced dead at the scene.

Buildings Department hearings on the violations are scheduled for next month. It isn’t clear how long the DA’s criminal investigation will take. It also isn’t clear whether or not Hart’s family has retained counsel in what could be a wrongful death civil suit against the building’s owners, global advertising company WPP.

Had the accident been a simple malfunction which ultimately only injured Hart, she could have retained counsel and filed against the company for things like medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. However, since she was killed, her family could file for damages including funeral costs and the mental anguish associated with losing an otherwise healthy 41-year old family member.

building owner is responsible for keeping their properties well maintained and safe for the occupants. This is true whether you are talking about a shopping mall or an apartment complex. When someone is hurt or killed on the property due to unsafe conditions, the owner of that property can be held responsible.

If you have been hurt on an unsafe elevator, escalator, or by other unsafe conditions in a building, contact a premises liability lawyer today.