Torts I, Pages 443–445

L.S. Ayres & Co. v. Hicks

Supreme Court of Indiana, 1942

Facts:

Page 443Plaintiff, a six-year-old boy, fell in defendant's department store and got his fingers caught in defendant's escalator. Defendant unreasonably delayed stopping the escalator, which aggravated plaintiff's injuries.

Procedural History:

Judgment for the plaintiff.

Issue:

Did the store owe plaintiff a duty to stop the escalator faster?

Rules:

  • Page 445, Paragraph 1

    [T]here may be a legal obligation to take positive or affirmative steps to effect the rescue of a person who is helpless or in a situation of peril, when the one proceeded against is a master or invitor, or when the injury resulted from use of an instrumentality under the control of the defendant. Such an obligation may exist although the accident or original injury was cause by the negligence of the plaintiff or through that of a third person and without any fault on the part of the defendant.

  • Bell: Where defendant controls the instrumentality causing the injury, defendant has a duty to rescue. Special relationships that involve duty to rescue require the defendant to have actual ability and authority to control the third-person.

Reasoning:

Plaintiff was an invitee and received his injury using an instrumentality provided and controlled by defendant. Plaintiff and defendant then had a sufficient relationship to impose a duty of care upon defendant to prevent aggravation of plaintiff's injury.

Holding:

The store owed a duty to stop the escalator faster to prevent aggravation of plaintiff's injuries. Reversed and remanded for new trial to determine liability for only an aggravation of plaintiff's injuries.

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