Atlanta Georgia wrongful death lawyers come across a wide variety of tragedies as an unavoidable consequence of the nature of their profession. As the firm finished a demand package this week involving a 20 story elevator fall in Atlanta, we thought we would blog this week about some of the unique characteristics of elevator injury and wrongful death law in Georgia.
Over 20,000 elevator accidents occur every year in the U.S. Elevators qualify as a common carrier of people and are therefore subject to strict rules regarding their operation and investigation of accidents. For example, after a fall “[a]ny elevator … involved in an accident…shall be removed from service at the time of the accident. The equipment shall not be repaired, altered, or placed back in service until inspected by a certified inspector for the enforcement authority.” OCGA § 8-2-106(c)
When there is an accident or injury, the standard of care to be applied to the operator of the elevator is extraordinary care. The appellate courts in Georgia put it this way:
“(W)henever a carrier, through its agents or servants, knows or has opportunity to know of a threatened injury, or might have reasonably anticipated the happening of an injury, and fails or neglects to take the proper precautions or to use proper means to prevent or mitigate such injury, the carrier is liable. It is the common carrier’s duty to use proper care and vigilance to protect passengers from injuries by such persons that might reasonably have been foreseen and anticipated. Knowledge of the passenger’s danger, or of facts and circumstances from which that danger may reasonably be inferred, is necessary to fix the carrier’s liability in this class of cases. The carrier is not regarded as an insurer of his passenger’s safety against every possible source of danger; but he is bound to use all such reasonable precautions as human judgment and foresight are capable of, to make his passenger’s journey safe and comfortable.
This does not mean that the operator has to constantly be searching the market for the latest and greatest safety implements, but they must exercise extraordinary diligence. Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority v. Rouse, 279 Ga. 311 (2005).
One common fact in elevator cases is that few buildings handle their own maintenance. Most either enter into a full maintenance contract with the elevator manufacturer or at least outsource the parts, oil and grease contract. The contracts between the parties are important because they often require increased amounts of liability insurance and can delineate additional standards of care.
Remember that if you are filing suit, always sue the building even if the elevator maintenance company accepts full responsibility. The owner of the building owes the duty of extraordinary diligence and cannot delegate that duty to the maintenance contractor. O.C.G.A. § 46-9-132. Lane v. Montgomery Elevator Co. 225 Ga.App. 523 (1997); Gaffney v. EQK Realty Investors, 213 Ga.App. 653 (1994)