Victim, Manufacturer Settle Escalator Lawsuit

OCEAN CITY – A $500,000 lawsuit brought against the town of Ocean City and other private sector defendants by a former Vermont high school student injured in an escalator accident in the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in 2006 was officially settled this week with an undisclosed amount of damages paid to the victim.

In May 2006, several members of a high school band from Vermont, in Ocean City for the annual Youth Music Competition at the Convention Center, were injured when the north elevator 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 Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin where they were treated for a wide 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 last June, claiming negligence against the town of Ocean City, the Ocean City Convention Center and Visitors Bureau, Inc., and the private ThyssenKrupp Elevator Company, which the town retained to service and maintain the faulty escalator. The suit is seeking $500,000 in damages jointly and severally against the defendants for the various alleged roles in the accident.

Early on in the case, the Ocean City Mayor and Council replaced the Ocean City Convention Center and Visitors Bureau, Inc., as the local defendant in the case. Town attorney’s filed a motion to dismiss the mayor and Council as defendants in the case evoking often-used governmental immunity as one of the primary reasons for seeking the dismissal. In September, U.S. District Court Judge William Quarles agreed and dismissed the Ocean City Mayor and Council as defendants in the case.

However, the suit moved forward against ThyssenKrupp, and in September, Montgomery Kone, the private company that manufactured the faulty escalator was added as a defendant. This week, the case was resolved with a settlement paid to the victim from either ThyssenKrupp or Montgomery Kone, or likely both, although the terms of the settlement have not been made public.

“There has been a mutual resolution,” said ThyssenKrupp attorney Terrence O’Connell this week. “A modest sum of money will be paid to the plaintiff by more than one party to make this whole thing go away. I really can’t say anything more about it.”

According to reports on the accident at the time, there were around 25 people on the escalator at the time it malfunctioned and as many as 10 Vermont high school students were injured including Beall. The complaint alleged Beall was injured severely when several of the students fell on her and pinned her to the moving escalator.

“On May 5, 2006, and while at the Convention Center with the band, Rebecca Beall followed her classmates and stepped onto an escalator traveling upwards to the second floor,” the complaint read. “While on the escalator, and without any warning whatsoever, the escalator suddenly stopped, and then the escalator stairs either immediately fell and/or began traveling in the reverse direction. As a direct and proximate result of the escalator stopping without warning and falling and going in the reverse direction, Rebecca Beall and numerous other classmates fell down.”

The complaint went on to state the victim continues to suffer from severe headaches, migraines, nausea, chills, shaking, blackouts and light and sound sensitivity. It also states she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic migraine disorder and also suffers from anxiety and phobias of escalators as a result of the May 5, 2006 incident.

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.