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Failure to Establish a Causal Link Between the Alleged Injury and Defendant’s Actions Proves Fatal to Plaintiff’s Negligence Action (PA)

December 23, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In<em> <a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Jones-v.-Schindler-Elevator-Co..pdf">Jones v. Schindler Elevator Co.</a></em>, the plaintiff alleged that while shopping at Bloomingdales, she suffered serious injuries as the result of a malfunctioning “up” escalator between the second and third floors of the store. The plaintiff alleged that while riding the escalator, the hem of her pant leg became caught between the steps of the escalator, subsequently causing the her to fall. The plaintiff brought suit against the Schindler Elevator Corporation and Bloomingdales, alleging claims for strict liability and negligent design and/or maintenance. Thereafter, the defendants moved for summary judgment, alleging the plaintiff failed to satisfy her prima facie burden.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The only support the plaintiff put forward to support her contention that the escalator malfunctioned and caused the incident were various maintenance records for Bloomingdales’ escalator. The plaintiff failed to put forward any other evidence to link the escalator’s alleged mis-function to the cause of her fall. The Court noted that the plaintiff did not claim that the operation of the escalator was out of the ordinary that day, or that the escalator was functioning in an erratic manner (e.g., excessive speed, shaking, lurching, etc.). Furthermore, the plaintiff failed to establish an explanation for how her pant leg became trapped in the escalator in the first place. Therefore, the Court held the plaintiff failed to make her showing of the defendants’ negligence.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Court next considered whether the plaintiff’s burden could be satisfied based on the doctrine of <em>Res Ipsa Loquitur</em>. Pursuant to the doctrine of <em>Res Ipsa Loquitur</em>, negligence can be inferred when the incident generally does not occur in the absence of negligence. The Court held that the plaintiff failed to establish that the incident at bar generally would not occur in the absence of negligence. Moreover, given that the plaintiff failed to provide sufficient detail for how her pant leg became stuck in the escalator, the Court could not infer that the defendants’ negligence caused the plaintiff’s fall. As such, the plaintiff’s claims failed under the doctrine of <em>Res Ipsa Loquitur</em>. Given that the plaintiff failed to meet her burden, the Court ruled in favor of the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">This case demonstrates that a plaintiff’s failure to allege a causal link between the sustained harm and the defendants’ alleged acts or omissions may prove sufficient to prevail in a dispositive motion dismissing the plaintiff’s claims.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to Rachel Thompson for her contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="mailto:chayes@wcmlaw.com">Colleen E. Hayes</a> with any questions.</p>

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