Don’t read this if elevators give you the heebie jeebies, or you may never get into one again.
Actually, the New Yorker article—which describes the ordeal (there’s no other word for it) of Nicholas White, a man who was stuck in an elevator in the McGraw-Hill office building in New York City for forty-one long hours back in 1999—has a lot of praise for that mode of transportation, one of the safest ever. And it’s true that Nicholas lived to tell his tale. And to sue.
He can’t disclose the amount of the award he got when the case was settled out of court, but:
The lawsuit he filed, for twenty-five million dollars, against the building’s management and the elevator-maintenance company, took four years. They settled for an amount that White is not allowed to disclose, but he will not contest that it was a low number, hardly six figures.
While I think that sometimes litigation results in ridiculously high awards to victims, in my humble opinion this is a case of the opposite. White should have gotten a lot more money.
Towards the end of his New Yorker piece, author Nick Paumgarten states that White’s choice to quit his job and pursue litigation was a strategic one, in order to claim mental suffering and extreme repercussions from the incident. And while it’s true that some people would undoubtedly bounce back from such an experience, I’m pretty sure that would be the exception rather than the rule.
White’s mental (and some physical) pain and suffering included severe thirst, claustrophobia, and the dawning realization that rescue was not coming in a timely fashion and that he might very well die there—while several security guards came and went and all utterly failed to notice White’s plight, even though the entire ordeal was recorded and broadcast to them on the security cameras they were supposed to be monitoring.
Read the article and tell me what you think.
And the New Yorker has kindly posted the video of White’s ordeal on You Tube. The fact that the entire forty-one hours are condensed into three minutes make it less than compelling as a testament to Wright’s agony, but here it is anyway: