Wednesday 26 October 2016

Woman trapped in shopping centre lift for just over four minutes awarded €25,000

Tim Healy

Published 07/10/2016 | 16:17

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Stock photo

A woman who was trapped in a shopping centre lift for just over four and-a-half minutes has been awarded €25,060 by the High Court.

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Mother-of-three Marie Dicker (54), a department store supervisor,  suffered a direct psychiatric injury as a result of the incident which led to the resurfacing of childhood claustrophobia she had suffered from, Mr Justice Anthony Barr said.

She sued the Square Management Ltd and Pickerings Lifts Ltd over the incident at the Square shopping centre, Tallaght, Dublin, on Auagust 31, 2012.  

Ms Dicker, of Cherryfield Road, Walkinstown, Dublin, told the court she felt like she had been trapped for 20 minutes but an CCTV recording inside the lift showed she was there for four minutes and 35 seconds.

The court heard she was out shopping with her young son when they got into the lift to go down to the ground floor. 

When it stopped after moving a short distance, she pushed the button to open the doors but they remained closed.

She said she pressed the alarm bell but nobody responded on the intercom.  She banged on the door and shouted but no-one appeared to hear her. 

She rang he husband who suggested she ring 999.  While doing so, a member of the centre security staff managed to open the doors and she and her son got out.

She said she was not treated very well at the Square's customer service desk.  She was given lunch vouchers to use in the centre and told she would be contacted but said she was not.

She was upset and distressed partly due to the fact that she had, as a child, suffered from claustrophobia.

Subsequently, she was not able to go into rooms without leaving the door open.  She could not go into fitting rooms in shops as she could not bear to have the door closed.

In public toilets, she had to prop her handbag against the door rather than lock it for fear  if she did it would not open again.

She was unable to travel in lifts at all and would have to be near the exit in any room she entered. 

She came under the care of a psychologist who found she still suffered from anxiety, claustrophobia and panic attacks related to the elevator incident.  She was also diagnosed with an adjustment disorder, mixed anxiety and depressed mood.

She participated in cognitive behaviour therapy and has responded well to the regime which is expected to continue for another 12-18 months.

A psychiatrist for the defendants told the court he did not find any symptoms of anxiety when he saw her.

Mr Justice Barr said he was satisfied she suffered a psychiatric injury as a direct result of being trapped in the lift.

"The extent of the injury was somewhat out of the norm, due to the fact the plaintiff had suffered from claustrophobia as a child," he said.

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