Irish Court of Appeal finds airport authority not liable in negligence for passenger fall on moving escalator.

The 64 year old woman who had never been on an escalator before fell on the moving escalator which was taking her up from the check-in area to the departure area. The escalator was found to have been installed and operating normally in compliance with recommended standards and did not amount to an unusual danger. Video footage showed the woman turned to adjust her carry-on bag on the step below her and lift it up onto the step so that it was beside her. The video also showed she was not holding onto the moving handrail when she lost her balance and fell.

The case turned on whether the airport was negligent in relation to her fall. She alleged negligence in the failure of the airport to display adequate signage informing passengers of the availability of lifts. The court on appeal by the airport held the signage was adequate, that airport staff were immediately available to assist, if asked, and that the video footage showed no sign of the apprehension the plaintiff claimed about using an escalator for the first time. The appeal court further held, as a matter of law and contrary to the lower court’s ruling, that the proximate cause of the injury was the plaintiff’s failure to hold onto the handrail while the escalator was moving, not anything to do with the signage.

The case illustrates the importance of identifying the proximate cause of an injury and the need to prove negligence in relation to that cause. It also illustrates a perhaps easy-to-overlook point that because a person falls and is injured, it does not mean that the occupier of the premisesis negligent..

Case: Lavin v Dublin Airport Authority [2016] IECA 268

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