SW Legal studies in Business

Elevator Worked Properly Despite Injury, So No Negligence

Appeals court held that a freight elevator worked as designed, so the elevator company was not negligent. A worker failed to move out of the doorway despite the ringing of the buzzer for more than a minute, warning that the door would close, as it was designed to do.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Negligence; Duty of Care; Elevator

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Requena worked for Linbeck Construction, a contractor at a hospital in Houston. His supervisor asked him and two other workers to move some building materials using the hospital’s service elevator. While Requena was helping to load materials into the elevator, an employee from another company pressed the elevator button to call the elevator to another floor. The buzzer sounded as a warning that the elevator would move to another floor, as it did after about a minute. As Requena was standing in the doorway loading materials, the door closed and caused injury to him. He sued Otis, alleging negligent maintenance of the elevator. The jury found Requena to be negligent ant 35% responsible for the incident. The other company’s employee contributed 15% of the negligence, and Otis was 50% responsible due to its negligence in maintaining the elevator. Damages were held to be $200,000. Otis requested judgment notwithstanding the verdict and the court granted that motion. Requena appealed.


Affirmed. Otis owed a duty to the construction worker to exercise ordinary care to maintain the elevator in a condition of reasonable safety for use. It was an agent of the hospital in charge of maintenance and repair of the elevator. To determine if negligence existed, the court will consider several interrelated factors—risk, foreseeability, and the likelihood of injury weighted against the social utility of the actor’s conduct. Otis did not breach its duty of care. The elevator functioned properly. Requena heard the buzzer for at least a minute prior to the closing of the door. Despite the warning and despite knowing that the buzzer signaled that the door would close, he remained standing in the doorway. That was proper functioning of a freight elevator.

Citation Requena v. Otis Elevator Co., ---S.W.3d--- (2009 WL 3321415, Ct. App., Texas, 2009)

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