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Orange County, California

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John Bisnar
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Escalator Injures Children In Orange County Mall

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Mall manager admits to “substandard escalators”.

At least four people were injured or trapped over the last three years and as recently as two weeks ago at the Kaleidoscope Courtyards mall in Mission Viejo, according to an article in The Orange County Register Saturday.

Early last year, state inspectors shut down six out of 12 escalators at the outdoor mall for not having valid permits because of brake problems.

The article quotes, Dean Fryer, a spokesman for the California Department of Industrial Relations.

“The issues at this mall are unique,” Fryer says. “It comes down to routine maintenance. Other malls seem to be on top of their maintenance and we are not hearing about these issues.”

The article states that records at the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health show that mall operators have been repeatedly warned about broken equipment, fluid leaks, brakes not torque to specifications and debris blocking escalator entrances and exits.

And here is a shocking quote from Mike Israelsky, president of the company that manages the center.

“Four years ago, the escalators were a mess, basically the same as now. What you have are substandard escalators.”

Consider the plight of Melissa Barker, the mom who was riding behind her 6-year-old son, Christopher, when the escalator “snagged him.” Barker said her son’s foot got dragged into a gap and that paramedics spent almost 30 minutes wrestling his foot from the steel stairway. The boy still suffers anxiety on escalators and while walking long distances. The Barkers reportedly ended up settling with the mall’s insurance carrier.

The Register article also reports that last January, another boy, George Gibson, then 8, of Ladera Ranch, wound up at Mission Hospital after an escalator ride at the mall. He broke two bones in his foot and was severely bruised. The boy’s mother said that firefighters had to bang the escalator apart to free him. According to the story, “a jagged hole at the escalator’s end sucked in his foot as the stairs continued to roll. The boy’s howls attracted a crowd, but little help.”

These boys could have lost their legs. It almost happened with little Christopher. The article says paramedics at first thought he could lose his foot.

A Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that there are 6,000 hospital emergency room-treated escalators injuries each year. Another CPSC study estimated that there are 7,300 escalator injuries that required hospitalization each year. Most of the escalator injuries were from falls. However, twenty percent of the injuries were “caught in/between” incidents which generally the more serious injuries.

About half of the “caught-in/between” injuries involved children under age five. They are mostly caused by a child’s hand or footwear, including shoelaces, becoming caught in the space between moving stairs and an escalator side wall or an escalator comb plate at the top or bottom of an escalator.

The “caught-in/between” injuries are the type occurring at the Mission Viejo Mall, where the passenger is caught at the bottom or top of an escalator or between a moving stair and the escalator sidewall.

At Dodger Stadium’s outside escalators, I witnessed a “caught-in” situation immediately in front of me, where a young boy’s shoe was caught between the lower side of the descending step and the escalator side wall pulling his foot up between the step and the side wall. Luckily, I got his foot out before it was forced through the comb plate at the bottom of the escalator. The boy suffered toe, foot, ankle, calf and knee injuries. Our settlement with Dodger Stadium included their agreement to have security at the entry to their escalators to control the flow of people on to the escalators and to be in position to turn them off in the event of an emergency during the high traffic flow periods.

Bisnar|Chase has successfully represented people injured in escalator and elevator accidents. One of them, an elderly women injured in a downtown Long Beach high-rise, resulted in a settlement in excess of a million dollars that was reached as the trial in the Whittier court was beginning. The building owner, the lease holder and the maintenance company collectively paid the settlement amount.

Need a consultation regarding an escalator or elevator incident? Contact me for assistance.