A visually impaired man’s 2012 visit to New York City ended in tragedy that has stretched into a prolonged legal battle. As Brian Hurley, who suffers from Retinitis pigmentosa, was leading a completely blind friend down the sidewalk last May, he fell into an elevator shaft in front of the Doughnut Plant located in the Hotel Chelsea. The shaft outside the 220 W. 23rd St. location was open, unguarded, and unmarked.
Hurley, who lives in Washington D.C., suffered severe injuries from the 10-foot fall and was rushed to Bellevue Hospital Center. There doctors were forced to amputate Hurley’s finger which had been irreparably mangled in the elevator accident. In addition to the burden of his medical bills, Hurley was forced to stay from work for over a month-causing him significant financial difficulty. He’s now suing both the Doughnut Plant and the Hotel Chelsea.
But if the loss of a finger wasn’t enough, Hurley’s sidewalk accident has also left him with “little to no feeling in his ring finger and along the side of his right hand below the pinky. The loss of feeling in those areas and finger impedes his use of a white cane to walk, reading Braille, using his right hand to identify objects and performing daily activities in work and home.”
This permanent disability could have been avoided if the business had used simple safety precautions or even stationed an employee beside the open hole.
Hotel Chelsea, owned by the Chetrit Group, said in a statement that though the elevator shaft in question-located immediately to the left of the Doughnut Plant’s entryway-is owned by the hotel, the bakery’s lease allows its employees to use the elevator.
ConsumerWatch.com reports that “U.S. elevators make 18 billion passenger trips per year.” Most operate without incident but statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission show elevator accidents claim the lives of roughly 27 people per year. In addition to the fatalities, 17,000 people are injured in elevator accidents, often severely.
Incidents like the one that claimed Mr. Hurley’s finger are not uncommon. Thousands of these basement elevator shafts open onto New York sidewalks all over the city. If you or a loved has been injured due to an elevator malfunction, call the Law Offices of Nussin S. Fogel at 646-736-2777 or 212-385-1122 to learn your rights.