The Little-Known Threat of Home Elevators


By Lynn Fugaro, Staff Writer

Most of us don’t live in homes with elevators, so there’s not much thought given to possible dangers of a home elevator causing the death of a small child, but the threat is real. Multi-floor homes often have elevators installed, so busy families can get from one to the floor next with ease and comfort. However, the construction and function of some home elevators pose a very serious risk, and many children have died in the last few decades after getting caught between the doors of home elevators.

The Washington Post Exposes Home Elevator Hazard

Two-and-a-half-year-old Fletcher Hartz died in what seemed like a freak elevator accident to his mother, Nicole, but the accident really was not a freak accident. Fletcher’s death was a result of a home elevator hazard that the elevator industry had been aware of for over 70 years: “That children caught between the doors had been killed and injured when crushed by moving elevators when their tiny bodies collided with the door frame above or fell into the elevator shaft below,” according to an article in The Washington Post.

Feature writer for The Washington Post, Todd Frankel, reported on July 18: “Corporate memos going back to at least 1943 highlighted the hazard. Lawsuits filed on behalf of dead and injured children since 2001 further spelled out the risk. In 2005, several elevator experts tried to change the nation’s elevator safety code to shrink the door gap — and were rejected. After more accidents, the elevator code finally changed in 2017, but it applied only to new installations. Nothing was done to fix hundreds of thousands of existing elevators, despite a problem that could be solved with a $100 space guard, according to elevator experts.”

Elevator Injury and Death Statistics

There are five types of elevators:

  • Passenger
  • Freight
  • Limited Use/Limited Application (LULA)
  • Home
  • Personnel

Each year in the United States, 27 people are killed in elevator accidents according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the agency tasked with keeping track of injuries and deaths from consumer products among its many other purposes. Injuries from elevators affect about 10,200 people per year, with the majority of these accidents associated with elevator door malfunction, carriage misalignment with floors, and passenger safety issues.

Here are the most common elevator defects and malfunctions according to elevator safety studies conducted by these agencies:

  • Pulley system malfunction/mechanical breakdown causing a rapid drop in the elevator shaft
  • An open shaft or faulty doors at elevator entry
  • Faulty wiring, elevator control malfunction, or electrocution
  • Incomplete repairs, maintenance, or inspections by unqualified personnel
  • Failure of elevator to line up with door
  • Passenger entrapment, heat from fire, or water from sprinklers

While home elevators make up a very small percentage of annual elevator deaths in this country, many elevator serious injuries and deaths probably could have been prevented. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an elevator accident, please contact a personal injury attorney in your area to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation as you may be entitled to monetary compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. 

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