NJ authority settles suit over escalator accident

Eight people who sustained serious injuries in an escalator accident after a New York Giants game four years ago reached a $2 million settlement Thursday with the authority that operated the since-demolished Giants Stadium.

The agreement with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority came midway through a trial in state Superior Court in Hackensack in which plaintiffs' attorneys had shown jurors pictures of some of the plaintiffs' injuries, including one man who had to have part of his leg amputated.

A person with knowledge of the settlement confirmed an online report that it was for $2 million. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the terms of the settlement are confidential.

Schindler, the company responsible for maintaining the escalator, settled on the first day of the trial on Jan. 9. Terms were not disclosed.

The accident occurred on Dec. 29, 2007, after the New York Giants-New New England Patriots game. Witnesses described riding down on the stadium's Gate A escalator from the upper deck when it suddenly sped up, then stopped.

Some of the escalator's steps broke apart, trapping people's feet and legs and sending others tumbling down on top of them.

One man, Michael Harris, underwent several surgeries and eventually had to have his right leg amputated below the knee.

Another plaintiff in the lawsuit, Joseph Capuano, has undergone 17 surgeries on his foot and could still face amputation, his lawyer, Larry Bendesky, told jurors.

“I think the jury looked at them as a group of people that could have been them, that they could have been the ones on that escalator,” attorney Michael Noonan, who represented Harris and two other plaintiffs, said Thursday. “I think that was a very powerful part of the case.”

The trial was expected to last another two weeks, and Noonan said all eight plaintiffs would have testified.

The lawsuit accused Schindler of failing to replace a mechanical part on the escalator that it should have known was faulty, and of failing to make required inspections of the escalator. It charged the sports authority with failing to limit the number of people allowed on escalators at one time despite knowing that overloading had likely caused a similar accident at the stadium seven years earlier.

An attorney representing the sports authority had argued in court that there was no standard definition of overloading and that the stadium's other escalators were carrying similar loads that night — and had done so on hundreds of other occasions — without problems.

Through a spokesman, the sports authority didn't comment on Thursday's settlement.

Giants Stadium was torn down in 2010 to make way for MetLife Stadium, shared by the Giants and New York Jets.

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