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NYC Elevator Death Due to Disabled Safety Device

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

An intentionally disabled safety device likely led to a woman's gruesome death in a New York City elevator shaft, investigators say. The finding will affect lawsuits seeking damages from the incident.

Crews from Transel Elevator Inc. were repairing the elevator in a Midtown Manhattan office tower Dec. 14, and purposely overrode the safety system to gain access to the elevator car, The New York Times reports. The override allowed the elevator to move with its doors open.

Repair crews completed their work and left the building at 9:55 a.m., a city investigation found, according to The Times. One minute later, Suzanne Hart stepped into the elevator that lurched up with its doors open and crushed her between floors.

Transel Elevator repair crews made at least three mistakes in connection with the NYC elevator death, the city's Buildings Department found in its investigation:

  • Crews allegedly failed to re-enable the safety device when they allowed the elevator to resume service, according to The Times.
  • Crews allegedly failed to post warnings that elevator repairs were underway, which violated city code.
  • Crews allegedly failed to call the Buildings Department for a required inspection before allowing the elevator to resume service.

In light of the violations, city officials have suspended Transel Elevator's license, and will take steps to get Transel's license revoked, The Times reports. The Manhattan district attorney's office is set to review the case for possible criminal prosecution, the New York Daily News reports.

The city's findings will also affect civil lawsuits in connection with the NYC elevator death. The repair crew's alleged failures seem to suggest they breached a duty of care in going about their work, which could make them liable for damages in a negligence suit.

As FindLaw's Injured reported in January, one woman who witnessed the NYC elevator death has sued for the trauma she experienced in seeing Suzanne Hart, 41, get crushed in the elevator shaft. Hart's survivors have yet to file a lawsuit, but could seek damages for wrongful death, according to The New York Personal Injury Law Blog.

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