A jury has awarded $13 million to a woman, who was left bruised, depressed and with psychological and physical injuries as the result of a very rough and tumble elevator ride. Janice Beasley was injured in a May 1999 incident in a Jacksonville, Fla. high rise. According to testimony during the trial, Mrs. Beasley, 54, experienced a series of falls in an elevator in the building between the 23rd floor and the basement. A mechanic with the Schindler Elevator Corp., the building’s on-site elevator maintenance firm, handled the malfunctioning elevator. But rather than taking Mrs. Beasley off the elevator, he sent her on to the basement. That caused another series of falls in the elevator.
It was proved that Schindler grossly mishandled the response to the malfunction and failed to consider Mrs. Beasley’s safety as a priority. She suffered post traumatic stress disorder, chronic depression, partial paralysis of her left leg, pseudo seizures and was wheelchair-bound for several years. The jury award was returned against Schindler and Highwoods Properties, the building’s owner. Mrs. Beasley filed suit in 2002, but the case was delayed over legal complications and finally came to trial this year.
Industry officials don’t keep records of elevator fatalities, but experts say they are rare, with more injuries resulting from elevator doors. Many believe that if one jumps at the exact moment of impact, they could survive. But most experts say no. The chances of timing a jump precisely are very small, and even if one did so, the reduction in velocity would be so minor as to have no effect. The elevator would collapse atop the rider when it hits bottom.
The only chance of surviving in a falling elevator is to lie spread-eagled on the floor, head in arms, according to the website of the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. That would distribute the force of impact across a wider area, causing internal injuries perhaps, but less likely to break bones. Brad Edwards, a lawyer with the Fort Lauderdale firm of Farmer, Jaffe, Weissing, Edwards, Fistos & Lehrman, represented Mrs. Beasley in this case and he did a very good job for her.
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