Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Home / Top Legal News / Fall down elevator shaft nets $1.8M settlement

Fall down elevator shaft nets $1.8M settlement


A woman who fell down an elevator shaft while on vacation at a South Carolina beach home has confidentially settled a lawsuit for $1.8 million, her attorney reports.

Chris McCool of Joye Law Firm in Charleston reports that his client, whose name was withheld pursuant to a confidentiality agreement, was vacationing in a three-story home equipped with an elevator in April 2015. During the night, she tried to use it, and when the doors opened, she stepped in and fell through the shaft onto the concrete floor of the elevator pit on the ground floor. Her most severe injury was a fractured wrist that required several surgeries, first in South Carolina and then at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Her wrist is now fused and she has limited movement with it. 

The woman sued the owner of the property, its management companies, the elevator manufacturer, and the elevator service and repair companies, McCool said. She alleged that in the months prior to the accident, the property owner and management companies had learned that the elevator door was prone to opening without a car at the floor and hired elevator service and repair companies to repair and eliminate the problem.

“This case was as heavily defended as any case I have handled,” McCool said. “Our basic approach was that the door to an elevator should never open when an elevator car is not present.”

The elevator did not come equipped with a safety device that would have prevented the door from being opened without a car present, even in the event of negligent repair or servicing. The safety device is not required for elevators for private homes in South Carolina, but the vast majority of states throughout the country require it, and the manufacturer includes the $250 device in those states. 

“There was a readily available and economically feasible alternative design that the manufacturer elected not to incorporate into the elevator and the homeowner, property manager, and repair and service personnel elected not to install the device once it was known there was a problem with the door,” McCool said. “The facts are so egregious, a jury would not have been really happy with the actions of all the defendants, individually and collectively.”

McCool said the initial challenge in the case was determining whether the elevator was defectively designed, negligently installed, negligently repaired and/or serviced, or some combination of the four. He said the turning point in negotiations occurred when the defense’s expert witnesses did not dispute the opinions of his expert witness.

“Each opinion rendered by our expert was supported by one, and often two, defense expert witnesses.” McCool said.

The defense argued comparative negligence because the woman drank with family and friends hours before the incident.

“This defense was impractical, because our client’s actions had nothing to do with the defendants failing to provide a safe and properly functioning elevator they knew would be used by people from all walks of life, at any hour of the day,” McCool said.

The identities of the attorneys for the defendants were also withheld pursuant to the confidentiality agreement.


Amount: $1.8 million

Injures: Fractured wrist, pelvic injuries

Case name: Confidential

Court: Confidential

Date of settlement: April 15

Special damages: $326,000 in medical expenses

Most helpful experts John W. Koshak of Elevator Safety Solutions in Collierville, Tennessee (elevator design, manufacture, and service/repair)

Attorney for plaintiff: Chris McCool of Joye Law Firm in Charleston

Attorneys for defendants: Withheld


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *