The case of Geshke v. Crocs, Inc. involves a kind of injury with which New Yorkers have become familiar: escalator entrapment.
Here, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejected a claim by the family of a young girl that the footwear she had donned was responsible for her injuries. This was despite the fact that this particular kind of shoe has been associated with numerous escalator entrapments in recent years.
Disappointing though this ruling may be, experienced escalator injury lawyers know that when these incidents happen, they are largely due to negligence. Sometimes the equipment is not properly maintained. In some cases, the equipment is not operated correctly or there aren’t sufficient controls or training to enact an emergency stop if necessary. In some scenarios, the site owner or equipment manufacturer breached a duty to warn of certain danger when using the escalator.
Whatever the situation, escalator injuries can be severe, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills and sometimes lifelong impairments.
In the Geshke case, a 9-year-old girl was visiting Massachusetts with her family. While wearing soft-soled resin clogs, brandname CROCS, the girl boarded a public transportation system escalator. Soon after, her foot became stuck. The girl screamed as a transit authority worker struggled unsuccessfully to apply the brake and stop the machine.
Thankfully, a bystander nearby rushed to the girl’s rescue and freed her foot before she reached the bottom of the track. However, the girl still suffered severe injuries.
The girl’s mother filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the shoe, alleging the company had failed to warn of the enhanced danger the shoes posed on escalators.
This is despite the fact that the Associated Press had reported back in 2007 that the shoes appeared to be associated with an increased risk of injury on escalators, particularly for young children. By that time, the Washington Metro System had posted warnings about wearing that type of shoe on the escalators, though the specific brand name was not mentioned.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that there were more than 10,000 escalator entrapment injuries annually, but incidents citing specific shoe entrapment are relatively rare. Part of that may simply be in the way these cases are reported to officials.
In the Geshke case, the girl’s mother alleged the shoe manufacturer was negligent for failure to warn and breach of warranty of merchantability. The trial court granted a summary judgment in the case in favor of the defendant, and the Eighth Circuit upheld that ruling.
The court found that the pivotal issue here was the danger posed ostensibly by the shoes, not escalators in general. While there is no question escalators can be dangerous, the court reasoned, the shoe manufacturer neither made nor maintained the escalator in which the child became entrapped.
That means that a duty to warn would not be owed unless the plaintiff can make a showing that these particular shoes posed a heightened risk of escalator entrapment. The plaintiff cited the history of child escalator entrapments involving the shoes. However, the court determined that these were anecdotes, not clear evidence of a link. The mother also cited a Japanese study indicating that these shoes heightened escalator risks. However, the court questioned the study author’s methodology. Finally, the plaintiff cited the shoe manufacturer’s updated policy of a generalized escalator safety warning on the bottom of the sandals. However, the court found that this was not indicative of the company believing the shoes presented a safety issue on escalators.
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Geshke v. Crocs, Inc., Jan. 17, 2014, U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
More Blog Entries:
Elevator Accident in New York City Rushes Rider to Death, Jan. 12, 2012, Brooklyn Escalator Injury Lawyer Blog