Elevator Misleveling Trip-and-Fall Case Proceeds to Trial on Res Ipsa Loquitur Theory

In Moriarty v. Lenox Terrace Development Associates (NY Sup. Ct. 3/24/15), the plaintiff sought to recover for injuries she sustained after tripping and falling upon exiting a misleveled elevator in her building. She relied, in part, on the theory of “res ipsa loquitur”.

The court explained that, in order to invoke that doctrine, a plaintiff must establish three elements: “(1) the event must be of a kind which ordinarily does not occur in the absence of someone’s negligence; (2) it must be caused by an agency or instrumentality within the exclusive control of the defendant; [and] (3) it must not have been due to any voluntary action or contribution on the part of the plaintiff.”

Judge Wooten held that plaintiff created a triable issue of fact as to all three elements. For example,¬†plaintiff’s expert, elevator consultant Patrick Carrajat, “reviewed the elevator’s maintenance log and found that it had been taken out of service 12 times in the year prior to Moriarty’s accident, and asserted that two of those occasions involved incidents that, he claimed, were indicative of leveling problems with the elevator.”¬†The court was left “with competing expert testimony on the issue of whether the alleged misleveling of the elevator herein was an event … of a kind which ordinarily does not occur in the absence of someone’s negligence.”

The court also cited “appellate authority that supports the argument that an accident that occurs as a result of a misleveled elevator can constitute actionable negligence under a theory of res ipsa loquitur”.

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