The tragic loss of Dijion Sanders on May 9, 2009, in Chicago should remind us all of the great dangers that garage doors pose. News reports indicate that he died when an overhead garage door fell on his back in the 9200 block of South Saginaw in Chicago. His family has suffered a great loss that should have been prevented.
Garage doors can fall from the open position because of manufacturing defects with springs and other parts of the door assembly or due to careless maintenance or installation. Equally dangerous, however, are garage door openers that are unsafely designed. For more than 20 years, the garage door operator industry and the Consumer Product Safety Commission have known that young children often push the button and try to race out of the garage before the door closes. Poorly designed garage door openers have no electric eye beam system that will stop the door from closing when a person passes through the door opening. Older garage door operators were only supplied with "contact safety devices" that were designed to stop and reverse if they contacted a person or obstruction. However, there are known failure modes for those designs and they don't prevent injury or death as well as the electric eye beam systems.
Bruce Pfaff and Matthew Ports of Pfaff & Gill, Ltd., along with co-counsel Jeremy Bergstrom, recently settled a lawsuit for an 8 year old boy who suffered cardio-respiratory arrest and brain damage when a garage door closed on him at the family's home. The child, four years old when injured, apparently pushed the button and tried to run out of the garage. We don't know whether he tripped or if the closing door knocked him down, but the pressure of the door (more than 280 lbs. of force) on his lower back caused the cardio-respiratory arrest and brain injury. The door had an automatic opener that was not equipped with an electric eye beam safety system. The "contact reverse system" failed and the door pinned the child. We learned of hundreds of "entrapment" injuries and deaths from garage doors in our investigation which would have been prevented by safe practices by manufacturers, installers or maintainers of doors and door operators.
After an intense three year legal battle, the case was settled in federal court for $9,000,000.00. The money will be administered by a trust bank under supervision of the probate court to provide for the child's future needs.
For further information about garage door safety issues, please contact Bruce Pfaff at 312 828 9666 or bpfaff at pfaffgill dot com.