Girardi | Keese

Swing-door elevators: A major home hazard

This past summer, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission launched a formal investigation of home elevators or "swing-door elevators" as they are otherwise known. The investigation was prompted in large part by a horrific accident back in 2010 that left a toddler paralyzed.

For those unfamiliar with swing-door elevators, they are typically found in homes as well as small and/or older buildings. They typically require less space to install than the standard office building elevator, and are not equipped with sliding doors but rather an inner door and an outer door. Here, the inner door is installed on the actual elevator car while the outer door is installed at the landing.

Safety experts say that the primary problem with the design of many swing-door elevators is that there is a gap measuring only a few inches between the inner and outer doors. This means that exploring children can easily become trapped in this gap if the outer door accidentally closes behind them, leaving them subject to serious or even fatal crushing injuries in the event the elevator is accidentally activated by an unsuspecting party.

Shockingly, statistics from various news sources indicate that at least seven children have been killed in swing-door elevator accidents since 1995. However, evidence presented in a lawsuit against an elevator company back in 2001 showed that 34 children were killed in such accidents in southern New York and New Jersey alone from 1983 to 1993.

Safety experts indicate that the elevator industry has been well aware of this problem for many years but has still failed to take the necessary steps to address the issue. For instance, many swing-door elevators can now be equipped with infrared sensors to prevent the car from moving or heavier inner doors designed to eliminate the gap. However, most manufacturers have not made this standard equipment but rather an expensive add-on feature.

It is worth noting that the U.S. CPSC has prompted the American Society of Mechanical Engineers to reexamine the issue and perhaps devise new safety standards. However, many safety experts are skeptical in light of the fact that these standards would not be developed by independent parties, but rather by a majority consensus comprised of parties with ties to the elevator industry.

Given that there are nearly 125,000 swing-door elevators currently in operation here in the U.S. and 5,000 more sold every year, we can only hope that the necessary changes are made.

It's important to remember that you can seek justice if a dangerous or defective household product has caused your family immeasurable harm. Consider speaking with an experienced attorney to learn more about your rights and your options.

Source: The Modesto Bee, "'Swing-door' elevators blamed for child injuries," Shawn Hubler, Dec. 18, 2013

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