Dangerous home elevators in use at rental properties throughout Florida and across the country have sparked an urgent call from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for action by the vacation rental industry. At issue are gaps in the elevators that can pose a risk of serious physical injury and death, particularly for small children.
“These injuries and deaths are horrific, and we need the property owners and rental agencies to disable elevators immediately until they have been inspected,” wrote Acting CPSC Chairman Robert Adler.
Florida is a very popular spot for residential vacation rentals. According to one online platform, there are more than 215,000 Florida vacation homes for rent just on their site alone. The actual number of residential rentals is probably much higher, though it’s not clear how many of those sites have dangerous home elevators inside them.
The reported risk with residential elevators is that occupants can be fatally crushed in a space that exists sometimes between doors. As our Florida elevator injury attorneys can explain, with a deep gap between the outside door and the inside door, a child can go in, close the outside door without opening the inside door. They then get entrapped between the two. If the elevator moves, it’s going to have tragic consequences. A 2019 investigation by The Washington Post indicated more than a half million residential elevators in the U.S. pose a risk.
As Fort Myers injury attorneys, we recognize this is not the first thing people want to picture when planning a getaway. Given the seriousness of the risk, however, vacationers as well as property owners must take the CPSC warning seriously.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, incidents involving elevators and escalators result in 30 deaths and 17,000 injuries in the U.S. every year, with elevators causing about 90 percent of the fatalities and 60 percent of the serious injuries.
The CPSC reports the home elevator incidents have involved kids from ages 2 to 12 who suffered skull fractures, traumatic asphyxia, fractured vertebrae and death. Even those who survive may have devastating injuries from which they’ll never fully recover.
Just this summer, an Ohio boy, 7, died at a vacation rental in North Carolina after being caught in a dangerous home elevator. The horrific incident occurred just days after federal regulators pushed a different major elevator manufacturer to fix a similar issue.
Though the CSPC is pushing for responses directly from the manufacturers of these dangerous home elevators, the agency took the additional measure of reaching out to vacation rental companies, platforms and property owners. In its letter, the CSPC asked that renters be immediately informed about the possible hazards through their email or on the reservation/booking pages. They also asked that outer access to the doors be locked or otherwise disabled until the machines have been inspected and certified as having no dangerous gaps. The agency also asked rental platforms to require inspections of elevators for any future listings.
Among the residential elevators that have posed serious injury risk over the last several years, per the CSPC:
- thyssenkrup Access Corp. The CPSC announced in July it was suing the company over the dangerous gap in home elevators, prompted by entrapment incidents in which two children were seriously injured (one permanently disabled) and a third died.
- Otis Elevator Company’s residential elevators. Late last year, the company recalled these models subject to inspection because of the risk of becoming entrapped.
- Cambridge Elevating home elevators. In 2019, the manufacturer recalled these models because of the risk of falls.
Waupaca Elevator home elevators. The maker of these elevators recalled its home elevator models in 2018 subject to inspection due to injury hazards. (This recall and warning was recently re-announced after numerous injuries and one death were subsequently caused by this same issue. The company is facing an extensive backlog in production and installation of the safety device necessary to fix the problem. Property owners are being advised not to use the elevators until the issue can be fixed.)
- Porta Residential Elevators. In 2016, the company recalled its home elevators with electro mechanical door locks for a serious fall hazard.
- Coastal Carolina Residential Elevators. In 2015, these elevators were recalled after a child suffered a traumatic brain injury. It was determined the hydraulic elevators could operate while the gate door was open.
Who is Liable for Florida Elevator Injuries?
Florida elevator injuries can be caused by a number of scenarios for which varying entities may be responsible. Often in these matters, a case for negligence can be made against one or more of the following:
- The property owner or lessee. Entities and persons who own and manage property have a responsibility to keep those properties in reasonably good condition and to address any foreseeable hazards that may injure lawful patrons or guests. When it comes to elevators, it’s good industry practice to have these machines undergo regular checks by qualified professionals. This duty is heightened when there is notice of warning from federal safety regulators regarding a specific issue. If they fail to take action or warn customers about a risk of which they’re aware, they can be held liable for the resulting injuries.
- Manufacturer or seller. Makers of products – and any in the chain of distribution – can be held legally responsible for safety issues that arise from reasonably foreseeable use of those products. If there is a defect in design, manufacturing or marketing (including failure to notify the buyer of a hidden defect), these entities can be held liable.
- Repair or maintenance companies. If a property owner has a contract with an elevator maintenance company and that firm in turn fails to properly service the machine per the manufacturer’s recommendation and schedule, they may be held liable.
Another possible defendant in these cases could be vacation rental platforms like Vrbo and AirBnB – if they fail to heed the warnings and follow the recommendations of the CSPC. They may not be able to control the actions and follow-through of each user, but at the very least, it would seem prudent to take the actions urged by the CSPC.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a Florida elevator accident, we can help.
If you are injured in Fort Myers, Naples, Port Charlotte, Sarasota, or Key West, contact Garvin Injury Law at 800.977.7017 for a free initial consultation.
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