Jesse W. Reno patented the “Endless Conveyor or Elevator” in 1892. He also installed the first working escalator on Coney Island four years later. Surprisingly, escalator design has not changed significantly from 1890’s. The entrance and exit platforms can often feel like you are getting ready to enter into a game of Double Dutch. The stairs, which were once right in front of you, disappear beneath themselves. It comes as no surprise that clothing and body parts often get stuck on escalators. In recent years, escalators have caused significant injuries, including a seven-year-old boy from New Jersey who got his foot stuck in a mall escalator and had to have his toes amputated. In Massachusetts, a prep cook at a sushi bar died when the hood of his sweatshirt became entangled in an escalator.
In Isaacs v Federated Dept. Stores, Inc., Macy’s escaped liability for injuries to a plaintiff injured on an escalator at one of its stores in Brooklyn based upon lack of notice. The plaintiff alleged that a broken piece of metal caught the strap of her pocketbook and caused her to fall. While the trial court originally denied Macy’s motion for summary judgment, the Appellate Division, Second Department found that Macy’s did not create the defective condition that caused the accident or have actual or constructive notice of that condition. The court reasoned that Macy’s established, through the deposition testimony and escalator inspection logs, the escalator was regularly inspected and maintained, and that Macy’s had not received any prior complaints about the escalator before the accident. Among other things, a Macy’s employee testified at a deposition that he inspected the escalator on the morning of the accident and that it was in working order. The appellate court found that the plaintiff failed to produce evidence of a prior problem with the escalator that would have provided notice of the specific defect that allegedly caused the accident or to offer proof that the alleged condition existed for a sufficient length of time to provide Macy's with constructive notice.