Thomas v. Brookfield Properties Corp., et al.

Plaintiff allegedly sustained neck and lower back injuries while he traveled in an elevator located at a building owned by Brookfield. While the elevator descended, it began to free fall for what plaintiff described as more than 10 floors, at which point it abruptly came to a stop. A subsequent inspection by the municipality found that the accident had been caused by a faulty governor. All of the building’s elevators were the subject of a comprehensive written maintenance agreement between Brookfield and Schindler. There were many prior complaints about the functioning of the elevators at the building, but none concerning that particular elevator. Plaintiff underwent a total disc replacement resulting in his inability to return to work, complaints of constant neck pain, and an 11% scheduled loss of use of his neck. Plaintiff’s wife maintained a derivative claim for the loss of her husband’s services and its subsequent impact on their marriage, which allegedly contributed to their separation prior to trial. The defense and indemnity of Brookfield was repeatedly tendered to Schindler pursuant to the terms of the maintenance agreement, but Schindler/its carrier refused.


The matter proceeded to trial and verdict. The jury returned a verdict finding Schindler 100% responsible for the occurrence, and Brookfield 0% responsible. They found Brookfield’s negligence not to have been a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s accident. The jury awarded the plaintiff $4.5 million for past and future pain and suffering (there was no lost wage component), and his wife $235,000 for loss of services. Post-verdict motion for reimbursement of the client’s defense costs is pending. Schindler is anticipated to appeal the verdict.

Case Notes

Superior Court of the State of New Jersey – County of Hudson
Plaintiffs’ Verdict
Responsible Partner: William J. Smith
Client: IBNI Insurance, Limited (American Home Assurance of Canada)
Opposing Counsel: Seigel Capozzi Law Firm for plaintiff; Sonageri & Fallen for defendant Schindler Elevator Group