Residential elevators have been in use in America since the early part of the 20th Century. These home elevators often differ from commercial elevators in hotels or office buildings since they have two doors: an outer “swing door” and an inner, accordion-like door.
Tragically, many such residential elevators or swing door elevators have inherent design and manufacturing flaws.
These elevator defects can cause horrifying accidents involving severe injuries and death. Victims often are small children who can easily get caught between the elevator doors and be crushed when the elevator moves, carrying the child’s body as it’s pinned outside the elevator.
Currently, an estimated 125,000 home elevators are in use across the U.S., with another 5,000 sold annually. The National Association of Home Builders says 12% of persons in a recent survey said home elevators were desirable or essential, an increase from 8% in 2004.
Often these elevators are found in large vacation homes which are three stories high and add a residential elevator as a luxury feature. Families often rent these for vacations or holidays.
But even after families are given instructions on how to operate such elevators, tragedies can occur, especially when an unattended child attempts to use the elevator by himself or herself.
Since the early 1900s, swing-door elevators have been used in the U.S., and the early elevators had problems, too. Even when push-button elements made it unnecessary to have human operators, problems continued.
Such elevators need less wall space than normal elevators in office buildings, since the outer door is hinged and has the appearance of an average home door, and the inner gate is on the elevator car. Children are prone to getting caught and trapped in the space between the two doors, and thus are pressed against the elevator — while outside of it — as it begins moving. Safety standards for home elevators have improved to some degree over the years. Metal scissor gates which could cut children aren’t used as much, for one thing. In 1955, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) set its first safety standard for home elevators by restricting the space between the outer and inner doors to four inches.
But in 1981 that standard was eased to allow a five-inch gap, and other problems remain. Nor is there much help from municipalities, which generally don’t inspect home elevators.
In fact, safety standards have gotten worse over time. In the middle of the 1990s, residential elevator manufacturers began making the accordion doors or inner gates out of lightweight vinyl or wood or vinyl. Being flexible, these gates allowed wider gaps that enabled a child to squeeze inside.
Installation variables also can mean an elevator’s gap is even wider — variables which often occur since no elevator manufacturer requires special training by the contractors who install their elevators. And the easier it is for a child to fit between the two elevator doors, the bigger the danger that the child could then become trapped inside and injured when the elevator moves.
No definitive history of home elevator accidents exists, but according to various news reports over the years, a minimum of seven children have been killed by swing-door elevators since the year 1995.
Further, in a lawsuit against Otis Elevator regarding a boy’s death in 2001, information arose about 34 other children who’d been killed or maimed from 1983-1993 in New Jersey and parts of New York state alone.
Clearly, child elevator entrapments, injuries and deaths are a long-standing and ongoing problem, and elevator lawsuits are needed to help put a stop to it.
If your family suffered harm due to an unsafe home elevator, contact the Willis Law Firm at once. We will promptly give you a free case review to assess your chances for a successful elevator lawsuit, and then you can consider how to proceed.
Those who elect to engage our law firm are provided with an experienced defective product lawyer or elevator defect attorney for their case. This legal professional then can help a family claim payments for medical costs, lost wages and pain and suffering due to the elevator entrapment.