ESCALATOR FALLS I TRIP AND FALL I PERSONAL INJURY I SLIP AND FALL I COMMON CARRIER – Common Carrier Trip and Falls Resulting from the Escalator Effect

ESCALATOR FALLS I TRIP AND FALL I PERSONAL INJURY I SLIP AND FALL I COMMON CARRIER – Common Carrier Trip and Falls Resulting from the Escalator Effect

May 28, 2021

Common carrier trip and fall cases include those personal injuries sustained in escalators accidents.  California case law is clear that escalator owners and/or operators are common carriers. As a common carrier there is a heightened duty to use the utmost care and diligence when operating and maintaining an elevator or escalator. Courts have addressed the risk exposure to persons whom are lifted vertically and unable to help themselves in the event of broken machinery. For this reason, liability is attached to persons whom own and operate such machinery. 

Escalator as a Common Carrier in California

Entities owning and operating escalators and elevators in California are deemed common carriers. Common carries are commonly thought of as entities whom move a person from one spot to another. Often times when discussing common carriers, the viewpoint is unreasonably limited to professional taxi drivers, limo services and/or public transportation services such as the trolley, trains and buses.  However, the state of California does not limit the common carrier duties to such a small sector. California is more inclusive, specifically extending the common carrier higher duty of care to owners and operators of escalators and elevators because such machinery moves a person from one location to another.

“Courts in many states have held that owners or operators of elevators are considered common carriers and thus are held to a heightened duty of care; those courts include courts in California. See Vandagriff v. J.C. Penney Co., 39 Cal. Rptr. 671, 673 (Ct. App. 1964); Champagne v. A. Hamburger & Sons, Inc., 147 P. 954, 957 (Cal. 1915); see also 6 WitKin, Summary of cal. law (10th ed. 2005), torts § 923.

Once a party is deemed a common carrier a heightened duty of care is owed.  The duty owed by an operator or owner of an escalator or elevator in California is one of “the utmost caution characteristic of very careful prudent men or the highest degree of vigilance, care, and pre-caution.” W. Page Keeton et al., Prosser & Keeton on the law of torts § 34 (5th ed. 1984) (internal quotations omitted).” – Uncommon Perception: The Common Carrier Duty Does Not Rule Out Defense Verdicts in Elevator and Escalator Accident Trials – Guy R. Gruppie; FDCC Quarterly / Winter 2009

Trip and Falls on Broken Escalators – Escalator Falls – Escalator Accidents

Common carriers breach their heightened duty when they allow members of the public to utilize a shutdown escalator as a stairway.  There is no specific statutory code prohibiting the use of escalators as stairwells; however, caselaw and findings to support this position. Escalator steps do not comply with building codes. First, the rise of escalator steps is high. Secondly, depending on where the escalator is stopped the risers may not be even. In both instances, steep steps and nonuniform risers, are dangerous tripping hazards. In the event escalators are not in service, they should be barricaded, and pedestrians should be prevented from using a nonfunctioning escalator as a staircase.

Escalator Effect, what is it?

The escalator effect refers to the sensation of dizziness and loss of balance pedestrians experience when stepping onto a nonfunctioning escalator.  Despite the awareness that the escalator is not moving there is a part of the brain that still acts on previous experience gained or muscle memory and misjudges how to step onto a shutdown escalator.  This sensation is also referred to as the broken escalator phenomenon.  When walking up or down stationary or stopped escalators pedestrians automatically replicate the posture they would adopt when walking on a moving platform to stabilize the body. This failed expectation creates the escalator effect sensation.

Escalator Falls are discussed under Premise Liability Law, Slip and Fall Accidents and other Negligent Torts, please see below:

If you are wondering: do I need a slip and fall lawyer after an escalator trip and fall, please see our previous blogs below:

Trip and fall cases involving common carriers should be discussed with an experienced personal injury attorney.  In the event of a trip and fall case resulting from an escalator fall, contact our offices at 619-432-5145.

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