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Woman Trapped for Three Days in Broken-Down Private Elevator in Billionaire’s Home


Emergency services rescued a woman after being trapped in a private elevator in New York for three days. Marites Fortaliza, a 53-year-old cleaning lady, was pulled to safety by firefighters after spending three days imprisoned in the broken-down elevator — in the home of billionaire Warren Stephens.

It happened in an upscale Manhattan townhouse on the Upper East Side where the victim had worked for 18 years. She had been using the building elevator on Friday, Jan. 25 when it became stuck at a point between the second and third floors of the home. The owners, Warren Stephens and his wife Harriet, were away for the weekend, and Fortaliza was left trapped in the elevator with no way to escape or call for help.

Emergency services were called to the house to free Fortaliza after the owners returned home on Monday morning, and realized that she was stranded in the elevator. She was taken to a nearby hospital, accompanied by a member of the Stephens family, and is recovering well.

Elevator Accidents

It is unclear what caused the private elevator within the $20 million home to suddenly stop between floors. The Daily Mail is reporting that it was examined in October 2017 by city inspectors, when some unspecified defects were found. However, it was ruled safe to use and has been active since that time. Another inspection was set for October 2018, the results of which are not known.

Following this incident, a statement was released by the Stephens family. It reads: “The employee involved has been a valued member of the Stephens extended family for 18 years. The Stephens family is relieved and thankful that she is doing well in hospital.

“The cause of this unfortunate incident is being investigated and appropriate measures will be taken to ensure that something like this never happens again.”

Elevator accidents account for a huge number of injuries each year, and can even be fatal. The most common types of accidents include sudden elevator drops and crashes, people getting caught in the automatic doors, people trying to escape when the elevator has stopped at a misaligned point, and people becoming trapped inside. Reports show that about 27 people are killed each year in elevator accidents on average. More than 10,000 people are also injured in elevators annually, and more than half require hospital treatment.

Elevator Liability Issues

In the event of an elevator accident, at least some portion of liability will usually lie with the owner or manager of the building. In the case of private homes and commercial buildings, the owner is responsible for ensuring that the machinery is properly maintained and inspected, and is in good working order.

Depending on the situation, a manufacturer, installation company, maintenance company, or inspector, may share some portion of fault. If you or a loved one has been injured in an elevator incident, the expert premises liability attorneys of Bisnar Chase can help. Contact us for more information on the legal process.

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California Personal Injury Blog