Product Liability

Horrific elevator malfunction kills NYC advertising executive

The long list of occupational hazards that threaten to injure or even kill employees on the job usually doesn’t include elevators, but that is what made Suzanne Hart’s death so unexpected and shocking.

Ms. Hart, a 41-year-old ad executive at Young & Rubicam, one of New York City’s leading advertising agencies, was stepping into an elevator a week ago Wednesday morning as she had done for years in her home office. But without warning, the elevator jolted upward, catching Ms. Hart and dragging her until she was pinned in the elevator shaft between the first and second floors. Emergency responders declared Ms. Hart dead on the scene, but it took about nine hours to free her body.

A man and a woman were already inside the elevator as Ms. Hart stepped on but could do nothing to save her from being dragged up the elevator shaft by one of her legs. The man tried to grab Ms. Hart but it happened too quickly, a responding firefighter told the Daily News.

According to the New York Daily News, what caused the elevator malfunction is still unknown, but “records have revealed a raft of prior elevator code violations at the building.” The incident occurred on the ground floor of 285 Madison Ave., an 85-year-old Manhattan landmark. The offices remained closed for the rest of the work week after the incident.

The New York Times described the elevators at the 28-story building as “old and creaky.” One of Ms. Hart’s coworkers said “they weren’t the kind of elevators that you stuck your hand in to catch the doors because they wouldn’t stop.”

Young & Rubicam had just announced plans this month to move its offices to a building near the Time Warner Center because it wanted a more open space instead of the cluster of small offices on Madison Avenue. According to the New York Times, four other major tenants had plans to move as well.

Fifty-three elevator accidents occurred in New York City last year. Three of those accidents were fatal.


The New York Daily News

The New York Times