On August 30, 2000, Jane Correia was a passenger in an elevator owned and operated by Johns Hopkins Health Services Company and Johns Hopkins Hospital . The elevator came to a sudden stop because of a mechanical defect . Due to injuries allegedly caused by this malfunction, Mrs . Correia and her husband sued Johns Hopkins, and others, in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City for negligence .
A jury considered the matter in October 2005 .The Correias introduced evidence that showed that, in the 6 months prior to the accident, Johns Hopkins had received 32 complaints about the elevator Mrs . Correia was in when the accident occurred .
The 32 complaints, if accurate, indicated that at various times prior to the accident, the elevator was dropping, jumping, jerking, skipping, and sometimes trapping passengers .At the end of a 9-day trial, the court gave the jury the following instruction:The owner of a passenger elevator, in this case . . . Johns Hopkins is the owner of the passenger elevator, is bound to exercise to the highest degree of care and skill and diligence . . . practicable under the circumstances to guard against injury to individuals riding on those elevators.
This rule of law applies to the owner of the elevator only. It does not apply to the service company [codefendant] Schindler [Elevator Company].The jury returned a verdict in favor of Mrs . Correia in the amount of $264,500 and a separate $35,500 verdict in favor of Mr . and Mrs . Correia, jointly, for loss of consortium .
Both verdicts were against Johns Hopkins; the jury found that codefendant Schindler Elevator Company was not negligent .Johns Hopkins appealed, contending, among other things, that the trial judge committed reversible error in giving the instruction quoted previously .On appeal, the Maryland Court of Appeals held that, from the record, it did not appear that this was a “close case” as to whether Johns Hopkins exercised the highest degree of care for Mrs . Correia’s safety .
There was strong evidence that it had not met its duty, especially in light of the numerous complaints about the elevator in the 6 months prior to the accident . The case, it appears, was “close” as to the issue of causation in that there was room for doubt as to whether an abrupt stop of a low-speed elevator could have caused the extensive injuries claimed .The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland determined that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in denying the motion for mistrial .
The judgment was affirmed, with costs to be paid by Johns Hopkins Hospital and John Hopkins Health Service Company .53Ethical and Legal Issues
1 . Do you believe that this case should have been settled out of court? Discuss your answer .
2 . Explain how you would have handled this case . Discuss your answer
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