Girl’s foot severed after getting caught in escalator


escalatorThis case involves an eleven-year-old girl who was riding an elevator while shopping with her family. The girl was shopping for back-to-school merchandise in a large department store with her family. The girl was wearing laced-up high-top sneakers at the time. While she and her family were riding the escalator, the girl’s foot became trapped in the escalator. When the girl got near the top of the escalator, her foot became caught. The girl screamed and cried for help and her foot became trapped in the jagged teeth of the comb plate of the escalator. The girl’s leg was sucked into the escalator mechanism. There was a large amount of the girl’s blood and tissue that was left on 11 steps of the escalator. The escalator kept going upwards and another customer had to use the emergency stop switch to turn the escalator off. The girl’s leg was trapped in the escalator to about mid-calf. The girl lost a great deal of blood in the accident and she also suffered kidney failure. The girl’s foot was severed off in the accident and her lower leg reconstructed. She was required to participate in physical therapy for her lifetime as the result of the accident. The escalator had first been installed in 1958 and was one of the oldest escalators operating in the state. A machine automation expert was sought to opine on the case.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • Does a department store have a duty to maintain and inspect escalators in the store?

Expert Witness Response

In general, a department store has a duty to maintain and service escalators in the store so that customers are not injured. The problem in this case is that the escalator was very old. Some older escalators have been shown to have many problems that can present dangers to customers in retail stores. Some older model escalators are built in segments, with the brakes and motors in each segment at different points along the incline of the machine. This design requires much more maintenance than newer model escalators, which have motors and brakes at the top of the machine. Many of these older model escalators are also known for being very noisy and for having poor ride quality. Most old escalators like the one in this case require a lot of maintenance and mechanics must usually adjust the load between different drive systems. This can lead to an imbalance which can cause extra wear on the escalator’s brakes. If a department store has an escalator maintenance plan that is fluctuating and not consistent, the store may not follow its own standards for servicing and maintaining the escalators. In general, a department store is required to do a quarterly inspection of all escalators which is supposed to identify any potential problems with the escalators. The store in this case should have furnished and installed new steps on the old escalator and also should have made sure that the escalator was properly lubricated in order to prevent the injury in this case.

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