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TexLaw, Attorney
Category: Personal Injury Law
Satisfied Customers: 4430
Experience:  Lead Personal Injury Trial Lawyer
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i was trapped in my buildings elevator for 3 hours after a

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i was trapped in my building's elevator for 3 hours after a power failure. the emergency phone operator claimed she advised bldg management but mngmt said they were unaware i was in the elevator for 40 minutes until they heard me screaming and pounding on door. they knew the elevators were down but had no knowledge of anyone in them nor did anyone check. fire department was finally called easily 45 minutes later and spent 2 hours trying to get me out unsuccessfully. elevator technician was called a 2nd time. first time, he was called within ten minutes but then he claimed he was told the fire department was called and turned around (he lives approx 40 minutes from building). he returned 30 - 40 minutes later and i was out in 5 minutes. this was an extremely traumatic event for me. fortunately i was dog sitting and my dog was with me. i lost several friends in 2 world trade on 9/11 (i worked on the 105th floor for 5 yrs). many of my friends blew up in an elevator. i am bipolar/borderline personality disorder. i have issues with claustrophobia and panic attacks. i had two in the elevator. i had mngmt get my cell phone and call my boyfriend to come over so he could just be there so i could hear his voice. when i wasn't hysterical crying or having trouble breathing, i was able to be a great sport and very grateful for the firemen and their efforts. i asked them to please use a crow bar, a chain saw, an ax. they said it cost too much and they would get me out another way. when i did get out they apologized and advised 3 hours is a long time but the elevator is not set up like a standard one and they couldn't get it open. this is a brand new luxury building. i am so grateful for my apartment. i have one of the 7 low-income apartments as i am on disability for my illnesses which are very complicated. this incident has caused emotional chaos where there was finally a bit of peace. nightmares that had finally dissipated. thoughts that had been horrible memories. not sure i want the bad karma of going forward with a law suit; just wondering if i had one as my psychiatry and psychotherapy bills are going to increase.

Thank you for your question. I'm very sorry to hear about your situation, it sounds absolutely terrifying.

In California, mental anguish damages which would cover traumatic mental injuries such as this are only compensable in limited situations. The first is where those mental anguish damages are tied to a physical injury. In this case, there has not been a physical injury so this is not applicable.

The second is where there was a negligent infliction of emotional distress. The California Supreme Court has allowed plaintiffs to bring negligent infliction of emotional distress actions as "direct victims" in only three types of factual situations: (1) the negligent mishandling of corpses (Christensen v. Superior Court (1991) 54 Cal.3d 868, 879 [2 Cal.Rptr.2d 79, 820 P.2d 181]); (2) the negligent misdiagnosis of a disease that could potentially harm another (Molien v. Kaiser Foundation Hospitals (1980) 27 Cal.3d 916, 923 [167 Cal.Rptr. 831, 616 P.2d 813]; and (3) the negligent breach of a duty arising out of a preexisting relationship (Burgess v. Superior Court (1992) 2 Cal.4th 1064, 1076 [9 Cal.Rptr.2d 615, 831 P.2d 1197]).

Unfortunately, your situation does not fall under any of these rules either.

Because the failure to get you out of the elevator was not intentional (only negligent) on the building owner's part and it did not cause any physical injury, this would be a very hard claim to recover on.

Please let me know if you have further questions on this matter.

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