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What’s the Risk of Riding an Elevator with an Expired Permit?

There are more than 10,000 elevators in San Francisco in offices, government buildings, condos, and apartment complexes throughout the city. Countless people use lifts to travel up and down every day without much thought to the possibility of danger. That nonchalance might be coming to an end.

Public documents have revealed that nearly 85% of the city’s elevators have expired permits. In many cases, several years have passed since the last inspection. Some elevators have not been inspected since last century. The risk of injury in an elevator increases when it is not properly maintained. 

Regardless of whether the elevator is in a public or private building, the owner or property manager may be liable for any injury on their property.

The Importance of Elevator Inspections

An elevator with an expired permit is not necessarily problematic or dangerous. However, disregarding the equipment’s maintenance can lead to breakdowns and out-of-service issues that leave disabled and elderly people unable to move about as they should. Inspections can pinpoint deficiencies that should be addressed and reduce the likelihood of an injury or service problem.

In May 2022, a woman was stuck in a hotel elevator for an hour. The call button for assistance was inoperable. Fortunately, her cell phone could make a call to her brother. He called the fire department. The elevator’s permit had expired two years earlier. The hotel had requested DIR inspect the elevator in 2021.

The Inspection Schedule for Elevators

Whenever a new elevator is installed in California, a series of tests are conducted to ensure the equipment works as designed. If the elevator passes these assessments, the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) issues a permit.

After that initial permit, the elevator is supposed to be inspected annually by DIR. Two-year permits are available under certain circumstances. If the evaluation identifies safety violations, the elevator is shut down until the violation is corrected.

The lack of inspections boils down to a personnel issue. Only 13 inspectors cover San Francisco and East Bay, a terribly small number compared to the number of elevators in the region. Exacerbating the problem is special skills and experience are required to be an inspector.

Private Companies Offer Some Support

Offering some comfort is the fact that an unknown number of property owners have contracts with private elevator maintenance companies to inspect and correct any problems. Property owners are not legally required to contract with a maintenance company. Many owners are not proactive and instead wait until the elevator stops working before making any repairs.

Liability of Property Owners

About 12,000 elevator injuries occur annually in the U.S., according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

At Rouda Feder Tietjen & McGuinn, we represent individuals who sustain injuries caused by a property owner’s failure to live up to their duty.

June Bashant, a partner at our firm, was interviewed by SFGATE about the possibility of elevator-related injury cases. She told the media outlet that “apartment owners have what is known as a non-delegable duty to maintain a safe premises,” a duty that “includes providing safe elevators in their buildings.” That duty does not require the property owner to contract with a maintenance company; however, they remain potentially liable for unsafe conditions.

If an injury occurs in an elevator under a service contract, the maintenance company might also be financially liable.

“I see what are known as full-service maintenance agreements where maintenance is not performed per the code, and where safety upgrades are not a priority,” Attorney Bashant said. “Corners are cut to save money under these maintenance contracts leading to injuries that would be preventable if the work was performed and necessary safety upgrades were made.”

Hold Property Owners Responsible for Elevator Injuries

Elevator use is a part of everyday life in San Francisco. When you walk onto an elevator, you should have confidence that it is safe. We now know that most elevators have not been inspected by the state.

You have the right to know when an elevator you use was last inspected. Demand to see the elevator’s permit or look up the address of a building in question in an embedded database in the SFGATE report. Lodge complaints about any elevator issues with the property owner. This paper trail will be important should a lawsuit be necessary.

If you have been hurt in an elevator-related incident, you deserve compensation for your financial and personal losses. Our nationally recognized firm is dedicated to righting the wrongs in personal injury cases. Our team is equally adept at negotiating settlements and taking the case to trial.

Schedule a free consultation to learn how we can help. Contact us online or call (415) 940-7176.