Elevator Accident Personal Injury Case Survives Summary Judgment

In Scafe v. Schindler Elevator Corp., the Appellate Division, First Department affirmed the denial of summary judgment for defendant. Plaintiff sued for injuries sustained when elevator doors slammed on her hand.

Summary judgment has been described as the procedural equivalent of a trial. “On a motion for summary judgment, the movant bears the burden of adducing affirmative evidence of its entitlement to summary judgment.”

Here, defendant failed to meet its burden:

Defendant, the exclusive elevator maintenance contractor, did not make a prima facie showing that it either lacked actual or constructive notice of any condition or defect in the subject elevator that would have caused the doors to quickly slam shut and trap plaintiff’s hand as she exited, or that it did not fail to use reasonable care to correct a dangerous condition that it should have been aware of.

Documents produced by defendant, which contain numerous references to recurring problems, some from which it can be reasonably inferred that the doors may have been involved, did not necessarily explain the cause of the defects previously found, and the deposition testimony of defendant’s employee did not establish the lack of notice of the condition that caused plaintiff’s accident.

Defendant’s reliance upon that employee’s affidavit to cure his deposition testimony is unavailing. The affidavit improperly alleges, for the first time in reply, that the employee had personal knowledge of conducting an inspection on the date of the accident and was improperly tailored to overcome his prior testimony. Moreover, there is no dispute that the elevator had been out of service for 3 straight days, undergoing 24 hours of labor immediately before plaintiff’s incident.

Since defendant’s moving papers were insufficient, the court did not find it necessary to address plaintiff’s opposition papers or consider the applicability of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.

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