A woman has been awarded compensation for being trapped in an elevator after a judge said he was satisfied that the incident had caused an emotional trauma.
In August 2012, Marie Dicker – a fifty-four year old department store supervisor from Walkinstown in Dublin – was visiting the Square Shopping Centre in Tallaght with her youngest son. While in the shopping centre, the two shoppers took the elevator in order to travel down to the ground floor. However, soon after getting into the elevator, it stopped – trapping Marie and her son inside.
Marie attempted to summon help by using the elevator alarm button and, when nobody responded on the intercom, started banging the doors and calling for help. Eventually a security guard was alerted to the noise and was able to release Marie and her son from their ordeal. Although Marie later described the incident as lasting twenty minutes, CCTV taken inside the elevator showed that she had been trapped for just four minutes and thirty-five seconds.
Nonetheless the upsetting incident caused Marie to suffering a recurrence of childhood claustrophobia. Due to not feeling safe in rooms when the door was closed, she sought professional medical help and was diagnosed with anxiety, depression and an adjustment disorder. She then sought legal advice and claimed compensation for being trapped in an elevator against the shopping centre´s management company and the maintenance company responsible for the upkeep of the elevator.
Although both defendants acknowledged that there had been a breach in their duty of care, they disputed how much compensation for being trapped in an elevator Marie was claiming. They argued that a psychiatric evaluation conducted on their behalf showed no evidence of Marie suffering from anxiety and the case went to the High Court for the assessment of damages.
At the hearing, Mr Justice Anthony Barr was told that, since the incident, Marie has been under the care of a psychologist and has responded well to cognitive behaviour therapy. After hearing that her treatment is likely to continue for another twelve to eighteen months, the judge commented he was satisfied that Marie had suffered a direct psychiatric injury as a result of the incident and awarded her €25,060 compensation for being trapped in an elevator.