The Errant Escalator

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Q: One day at work, I was walking up a stopped escalator that normally traveled in an upward direction.  When I was near the top, it suddenly began to move in a downward direction.  I lost my balance and took a terrible tumble.  As soon as I collected my senses, I saw a man, with the emblem of the building owner on his shirt, standing nearby.  He was carrying some sort of tool and said that he would lock the escalator.

I have since learned that, once this particular escalator is stopped, it will not reset itself.  Someone has to restart the escalator by physically using a specific key at the top or bottom of the escalator in order for the escalator to start moving again.  And the only possible way to reverse its direction is to use that key.  Only the building owner’s employees have access to the key, which is kept in a locked cabinet.

A: Under the doctrine of ‘res ipsa loquitur’, where the actual or specific cause of an accident is unknown, a jury may in certain circumstances infer negligence merely from the happening of an event and the defendant’s relation to it.  In order to rely on the doctrine of res ipsa, you must satisfy three conditions: (1) that the event was of a kind that ordinarily does not occur in the absence of someone’s negligence; (2) that it was caused by an agency or instrumentality within the exclusive control of the defendant; and (3) that it was not due to any voluntary act or contribution on your part.

Because the mechanism for controlling the escalator was locked and accessible only by the key you mentioned, the fact that the escalator was open to the public does not remove it from the exclusive control of the owner – who appears to be extremely exposed to liability.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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