Elevators and New York City Housing: A Dangerous Combination?

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) runs one of the largest and busiest elevator fleets in the area. Its 340 public housing complexes serving poor and moderate-income families contain 3,338 elevators in 2,618 buildings. At 3.1 million trips a day, these elevators make 1.2 billion trips each year. In light of such heavy traffic, rates of elevator accident and injury are quite low. In fact, the likelihood of getting hurt in a city housing elevator is just one in 34 million trips.

Accidents Do Happen

In spite of NYCHA’s generally good elevator safety record, about 300 residents, employees and visitors have reported elevator-related injuries from 2001 to 2009. Those who received only minor bumps and bruises did not seek medical attention. But more than 170 people received treatment at hospitals, private doctors, or from paramedics and firefighters at the scene. Elevator accidents most often result in injuries to heads, backs, arms, legs, feet and knees.

Some Injuries Are More Serious

The most horrific recent NYCHA elevator accident resulted in a fatality. In 2009, a 5 year-old Brooklyn boy plunged 10 stories to his death while trying to climb out of a stalled elevator. In 2008, a 23 year-old home health aide en route to visit a patient was stranded in a stalled elevator when the outer door failed to close completely. As she grabbed the edge of the door to pull it closed, her middle finger became caught in the door frame as the door slammed into her hand. The door’s swift and forceful motion sliced off the top of her finger above the end joint. In a different incident, a firefighter trying to remove passengers from a stalled elevator lost part of his finger as well. Other serious injuries included swelling to the head and hands, a broken nose, and two amputated toes.

Hazardous Doors

The great majority of NYCHA elevator complaints concern inner and outer doors than close too rapidly and with too much force. Residents have had to push young children out of the path of fast-closing elevator doors to avoid serious harm. Still, an infant was rushed to the hospital after being struck by a door and a young boy required surgery to repair an injured hand. Other residents have suffered cuts to hands and wrists as well as bruising on their forearms. In many cases, door timers are defective and need to be replaced.

It’s Not Just Injury

Malfunctioning elevators tax the daily lives of city housing residents both physically and psychologically. Many suffer inconveniences like missed school buses and medical appointments and are often forced to climb flights of stairs. This effort takes an especially difficult toll on the elderly and the disabled.

The City is Responsible

From 2001 to 2007, the NYCHA paid $3.5 million in judgments and settlements arising from elevator-related injuries. The biggest payout, $725,000, went to a Brooklyn public housing tenant who fell and broke her leg while stepping out of an elevator. The elevator had come to a stop two inches below floor level, creating a serious risk of passengers tripping while exiting the car. At least 14 elevator accidents involved children. In 30 cases, violations were issued to the NYCHA by the Buildings Department. The city has since made several repairs and has allocated $107 million toward the replacement of 550 elevators over the next five years.

Personal injury lawsuits against the city must be filed within certain time frames. If you or a loved one has been injured in a New York City public housing elevator accident, you should seek immediate medical and legal help. The attorneys at the Orlow firm are well-versed in this area of law and are knowledgeable about the procedures involved in filing claims against the city.