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Escalator Injuries: Who is Liable?

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on October 04, 2011 6:44 AM

It's easy to name businesses that have escalators. Malls, airports, and hotels all have these fixtures installed for the convenience of their customers. But who's liable for escalator accidents? Should mall owners liable for escalator injuries?

Escalator accidents can occur either because of the passenger or because of a mechanical failure.

Sudden or unexpected "jerky" movements can send passengers flying down the escalator. A passenger's clothes or jewelry can sometimes get caught in an escalator's moving parts.

Under a theory of premises liability, property owners are required to make sure things like escalators are working properly. This means that the escalator must be properly maintained. If it's not, the owner may be liable.

Can the injured party be responsible too? 

Sometimes escalator injuries are not just the result of mechanical failure. If so, it's likely that a theory of comparative fault would be applied. Comparative fault legally limits an owner's liability for an injury by taking into account the injured party's negligence.

For example: if someone rushes down an escalator in the opposite direction and falls, he is likely negligent and at least partially responsible for causing his own accident. Assume that his medical bills are $10,000. A jury finds that he was 25% at fault for his own accident. Under comparative fault, he will only be able to recover $7,500.

However, escalators are also designed to shuttle passengers up and down floors. Because they are designed to transport people, some courts have upheld a high standard of safety for owners and operators of escalators that can amount to strict liability.

Under a strict liability theory, an injured person doesn't have to show the owner was negligent in order to recover for their escalator injury. But, not all jurisdictions have adopted a strict liability approach. Still have questions about escalator accidents? Consider contacting a local personal injury attorney.

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