Legal Memorandum: Damages for Injuries from a Defective Elevator

Issue: Under New York law, who is liable for injuries caused by a defective elevator when maintenance of the elevator has been contractually assigned to a party other than the building’s owner?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Damages for injuries arising from a defective elevator; Building owner; Elevator company
Jurisdiction: New York
Cited Cases: 453 N.Y.S.2d 192; 884 F.2d 1556; 555 N.Y.S.2d 669; 75 N.Y.2d 680; 32 N.Y.2d 553; 300 N.E.2d 403; 89 A.D.2d 829; 201 N.Y.S.2d 837; 347 N.Y.S.2d 22
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 05/01/2000

The seminal New York case relating to an elevator passenger’s ability to recover an award of damages for injuries arising from a defective elevator is Rogers v. Dorchester Assocs., 32 N.Y.2d 553, 347 N.Y.S.2d 22, 300 N.E.2d 403 (1973).  In Rogers, the building owner’s management company entered into a written contract with Otis Elevator Company whereby Otis undertook to “regularly and systematically examine, adjust [and] lubricate elevator machinery” and to “repair and replace” parts if required in Otis’ judgment, and to “use all reasonable care to maintain the elevator equipment in proper and safe operating condition.”  The contract also provided that all equipment would remain within the “possession and control” of the owner and that “under no circumstances shall we [Otis] be liable for consequential damages.”  Id. at 558, 347 N.Y.S.2d at 25, 300 N.E.2d at 405.  Further, evidence presented at trial established that building employees were not allowed to perform repairs on the elevator, but would shut down the elevator and call Otis in the event of problems.  In short, Otis handled all maintenance of the elevators exclusively.  Id. at 558, 347 N.Y.S.2d at 26, 300 N.E.2d at 405.  Based on these contractual provisions, the court held that the building owner was entitled to be indemnified by Otis for the full amount of any damages awarded against the building owner by virtue of its nondelegable duty to the plaintiff.  Id. at 565, 347 N.Y.S.2d at 30, 300 N.E.2d at 409.

Otis […]

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