946 F.2d 1272 (7th Cir. 1991), 90-2997, Hayes v. Otis Elevator Co.

Docket Nº:90-2997.
Citation:946 F.2d 1272
Party Name:Josephine M. HAYES, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. OTIS ELEVATOR COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:October 28, 1991
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 1272

946 F.2d 1272 (7th Cir. 1991)

Josephine M. HAYES, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

OTIS ELEVATOR COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 90-2997.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

October 28, 1991

Argued Sept. 10, 1991.

Page 1273

Emmanuel F. Guyon (argued), Streator, Ill., for plaintiff-appellant.

James P. DeNardo, Christine L. Olson (argued), Charles P. Menges, Steven P. Rouse, McKenna, Storer, Rowe, White & Farrug, Chicago, Ill., for defendant-appellee.

Before EASTERBROOK, RIPPLE, and MANION, Circuit Judges.

RIPPLE, Circuit Judge.

Josephine Hayes fell and was injured while riding up an escalator that was manufactured, installed, and maintained by Otis Elevator Co. (Otis). Mrs. Hayes brought suit against Otis on theories of negligence and products liability. The district court granted Otis' motion for summary judgment on the products liability claim on the ground that it was barred by the applicable Illinois statute of repose. The negligence claims were tried before a jury which, after the district court denied Mrs. Hayes' motion for a directed verdict, found in favor of Otis. Mrs. Hayes appeals the court's grant of summary judgment on the products liability claim as well as the court's denial of her motion for a directed verdict. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I

BACKGROUND

  1. Facts

    On March 23, 1986, Josephine Hayes and her family arrived at Water Tower Place, a multi-level shopping complex in Chicago. Immediately after entering the lobby, the group proceeded up the escalator toward the second floor in the following order: Mrs. Hayes' son, Patrick Hayes; her husband, William Hayes; her niece, Beverly Salon; her son's friend, Nancy Enis; Josephine Hayes herself; and her sister, Catherine Nycz.

    Mrs. Hayes did not hold on to either handrail as she rode up the escalator. Between the ground floor and the second floor, there is a mezzanine--an intermediate landing at which one must step off the first escalator, walk twelve to fifteen feet forward, and board a second escalator.

    Page 1274

    Mrs. Hayes was unaware of this arrangement. At or near the point at which the first escalator meets the mezzanine, Mrs. Hayes fell and landed on the mezzanine floor. She injured her right wrist.

    After helping his mother get up off the floor and sit down on a bench on the mezzanine, Patrick Hayes rode the down escalator to the ground floor and told the security guard, Lauren Winterhelt, about the incident. Mrs. Hayes soon followed with the rest of the group, and, after both Patrick and Mrs. Hayes had talked with Officer Winterhelt, Patrick hailed a cab and took Mrs. Hayes to a nearby hospital. Mrs. Hayes was diagnosed as having a fractured wrist. The wrist was placed in a cast and she was released. After personally examining the escalators and finding no defect, Officer Winterhelt filled out an incident report.

    Mrs. Hayes, an Illinois resident, brought suit in Illinois state court against Otis, a New Jersey corporation with its principal place of business in Connecticut. Otis had manufactured, installed, and maintained the escalator. In Count I of her complaint, Mrs. Hayes alleged that Otis was negligent in (1) failing to maintain the escalator in a reasonably safe condition, and (2) failing to provide the escalator with adequate safety devices to warn passengers of the exit point at the mezzanine. In Count II of the complaint, Mrs. Hayes alleged that Otis was liable under Illinois' product liability statutes for defective and dangerous design of the escalator. Otis removed the case to federal court on diversity grounds.

  2. District Court Proceedings

    Before trial, the district court granted Otis' motion for summary judgment on the products liability claim on the ground that it was barred by Illinois' statute of repose for product liability actions. The negligence claims were tried before a jury. At trial, Mrs. Hayes testified that her fall was caused by an escalator malfunction, which caused the escalator to "jerk suddenly" and throw her three or four feet forward through the air. Mrs. Hayes' testimony was corroborated by her sister, Catherine Nycz, her son, Patrick Hayes, and her niece, Beverly Salon.

    Mrs. Hayes' own expert witness, John Donnelly, however, testified that he did not believe that the escalator jerked violently. Rather, he believed Mrs. Hayes fell because "she wasn't paying attention to the end of the escalator ride, the first escalator. And when she came to the upper landing of the first escalator, not watching where she was going, she was thrown down--not thrown off but she fell down at the exit point." Tr. at 88. In Mr. Donnelly's expert opinion, had the escalator malfunctioned as Mrs. Hayes believed it did, there would have been a "catastrophic failure" of the equipment, and it would not have continued running. Mr. Donnelly further testified that it is the custom and practice in the escalator industry for the building owner or manager--not the escalator manufacturer--to provide warnings other than the small yellow pictographs at the entrance of the escalators advising passengers to hold on to the handrail and hold a child's hand. The law requires the escalator manufacturer to attach these pictographs, and Otis had complied.

    At the end of her evidence, Mrs. Hayes moved for a directed verdict. The motion was denied, and Otis presented its case. The security guard, Officer Winterhelt, testified that Patrick Hayes...

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