Botched Elevator Rescue Justifies Larger Payout

     (CN) – A woman who fell down an elevator shaft at work is entitled to extra workers’ compensation benefits because of a botched rescue, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled.
     Patricia Hornback was working as a custodian for Hardin Memorial Hospital when she became stuck in an elevator. The security team did not call the fire department, a rescue squad or an elevator mechanic.
     Instead, they opened the front door of the elevator and had Hornback jump out. Unfortunately, Hornback’s knees buckled and she fell backward down an open elevator shaft, resulting in severe injuries.
     The administrative law judge ruled that the Hardin staff had specific instructions available for how to handle such a situation, but they failed to follow those instructions.
     Based on this information, the judge ruled that Hornback deserves a 30 percent enhancement in her weekly workers’ compensation benefits.
     An appeals court jeopardized this decision, however, by finding that Hornback could receive the enhancement only if the court found that the hospital “ignored or willfully overlooked a safety hazard that was reasonably foreseeable,” with an elevator rescue not qualifying.
     Hornback fared better with the Kentucky Supreme Court, which reinstated the benefits enhancement in an unsigned opinion.
     “In this matter, it seems clear that Hardin, operating as a hospital with an elevator, should have had procedures in place to perform elevator rescues in a safe manner and should have been aware of the risk to Hornback if the rescue was unsuccessful,” the justices wrote.
     “Further, there is sufficient evidence that Hardin ignored the obvious safety hazard which can occur if an elevator stalls and failed to follow or teach its employees about reasonable elevator rescue procedures,” they added.

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