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Costly Rescue From Dangerous Elevator Shaft

A New Year’s Eve hero pushed a woman out of a faulty elevator moments before it trapped and killed him.
The incident took place on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. 25-year-old Stephen Hewett-Brown came out of the high-rise apartment building’s elevator shortly before midnight, passing Erude Sanchez as he did so. At that moment, the elevator buckled and began descending rapidly. Mr. Hewett-Brown pushed Ms. Sanchez to safety, but he himself became suspended between the second and third floors. Building residents worked to free him as first responders were en route, but the weight of the elevator quickly crushed Mr. Hewett-Brown.
Tenants had filed 30 complaints about the elevator since 2010, and three of them are still pending. The Broome Street building’s elevator has not been inspected since September 2014.
Landowner Liability
Ever since 1911, liability in these cases has been tied to the color of a banana peel.
Anjou v. Boston Elevated Railway Company involved a woman on the crowded Dudley Street platform in Beantown. As she walked, she slipped on a banana peel that “felt dry and gritty as if there were dirt upon it;” upon inspection, “every bit of it was black, there wasn’t a particle of yellow.” This detail becomes important later.
The railroad company argued that anyone could have dropped the wayward banana peel and that it could not possibly clean up every bit of debris. But the court concluded that, since it was black and gritty, the peel had been on the floor for quite some time and no one had cleaned it up. Therefore, the owner breached its duty to “keep its station reasonably safe for its passengers.”
If the elevator in the above building was a banana peel, it would have been as black as midnight. Multiple complaints, several of which were still unresolved, indicate that the building’s owner definitely knew about the dangerous condition, or at least should have known about it. Obviously, the situation had not been rectified and the owner breached the duty to keep the premises reasonably safe.
The fact that the tenants are invitees, or people who are on the premises for a commercial reason, makes the situation even more pronounced, because the landowner-invitee duty is one of the highest ones that the law recognizes.
Unsafe elevators, rickety staircases, and unlit parking lots are far too dangerous to ignore. For a free consultation with attorneys who make negligent owners pay damages, contact our office. Home and hospital visits are available.

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