Escalator Lawsuit Moves On Against Private Company

OCEAN CITY – While a federal judge last week absolved the town of Ocean City from any liability in a $500,000 civil suit filed in May by a former Vermont high school student injured in an escalator fall in the Roland E. Powell Convention Center, the case moves on this week against the private company listed a co-defendant in the complaint.

In May 2006, several members of a high school band from Vermont, in Ocean City for an annual Youth Music Competition at the Convention Center, were injured when the north escalator to the second floor stopped suddenly and starting running in reverse. Several of the students fell during the accident and a handful were taken to AGH in Berlin where they were treated for a variety of injuries.

Nearly three years to the day of the accident, one of the injured students, Rebecca Beall, of Barre, Vt., filed suit in U.S. District Court claiming negligence against the town of Ocean City and the private ThyssenKrupp Elevator Company, which the town retained to service and maintain the faulty escalator. The suit was seeking $500,000 in damages jointly and severally against the defendants for their various alleged roles in the incident.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge William Quarles dismissed the portion of the suit related to the town of Ocean City, essentially agreeing with the resort’s claim of governmental immunity in the case. However, the case against the private company ThyssenKrupp, a global company and world leader in elevator and escalator sales and service, continues. This week, attorney’s for Beall filed a notice disclosure highlighting potential expert witnesses the plaintiffs plan to call if and when the case goes to trial.

Among those on the plaintiff’s short expert witness list is Dr. Robert Spence of the National Burn Reconstruction Center at Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore. According to the disclosure, Spence, an expert in plastic surgery, will testify on the nature and extent of the injuries to the victim’s face.

“Dr. Spence will testify to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that Ms. Beall’s scars are present and permanent,” the disclosure reads. “He will testify that it is highly unlikely that any treatment will improve the scarring and that any such treatment may, in fact, aggravate the scars’ appearance.”

In addition, the plaintiffs have listed Patrick A. Carrajat, of the LIR Group in Long Island City, N.Y., who is an expert in escalator and elevator accident investigation and reconstruction, as a potential expert witness in the case on behalf of the victim.

With Ocean City now held harmless in the suit, the plaintiffs are now turning their attention to ThyssenKrupp, which allegedly serviced the faulty escalator in the weeks and months leading up to the accident. The complaint details an extensive list of repairs and maintenance on the north escalator dating back to June 2005 or just under a year before the incident and continuing throughout the year until just two weeks prior to its failing on May 5, 2006. At different times during the year prior to the incident, ThyssenKrupp serviced the escalator and identified several problems with it, according to the complaint.

Nearly a year after the accident, Ocean City retained an independent inspector to evaluate the condition of the escalator and the level of preventative maintenance performed by ThyssenKrupp and issued a maintenance audit survey report. In their report, evaluators stated they “observed numerous gear parts that were worn and failing, including bad bearings, sheared bolts, worn pinion gear and a chipped tooth to the brass gear,” according to the complaint.