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Louisiana family suffered fractures during Orange Line escalator malfunction, files lawsuit

The escalator leading to the Commuter rail at the Back Bay T stop was closed Monday morning after nine people were sent to the hospital Sunday with injuries after it malfunctioned.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

A Louisiana couple and their two children suffered multiple fractures of their lower and upper extremities and “extensive” lacerations of the face, scalp, and head when an escalator at the Back Bay MBTA station malfunctioned Sunday evening, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Suffolk Superior Court.

Karson and Holly Bethay and their two children were so severely injured that they required inpatient treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and face the prospect of extensive rehabilitation and financial impact linked to their recovery, according to court records.

The family launched litigation against the MBTA and the contractor hired to maintain the escalators, Kone Inc., in Suffolk Superior Court Thursday, according to court records.

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In the two-count lawsuit, the family accuses Kone and “John Doe” of negligently failing to maintain and inspect the escalator, a failure that lead to the family suffering “fractures; sustain extensive lacerations, scarring and disfigurement; suffer a loss of function” and incur ongoing medical bills for needed continued health care.

The second count asks the courts to order to issue a restraining order barring the MBTA, as the owner of the escalator, and Kone from repairing the damaged escalator or disposing of any parts removed during ongoing investigation and also preserve surveillance video, and any records related to the incident and the escalator.

Joe Pesaturo, an MBTA spokesman, said Thursday evening that the cause of the malfunction remains under investigation. He declined further comment.

Pesaturo said previously that the escalator will remain out of service until investigators determine the cause of the malfunction and the escalator receives any needed repairs and approval from oversight regulators.

On Friday, Kone Inc. issued a statement saying it is cooperating with the investigation.

“Safety is KONE’s top priority and our thoughts go out to those who were injured.  We continue to collaborate with MBTA to investigate the issue and recently learned of the pending lawsuit,” the statement said.

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The company said it could not comment further, due to the lawsuit.

In an affidavit filed in support of the litigation, family attorneys Robert W. Norton and Roger J. Donahue Jr. wrote that the Bethays came to Boston from their home in Metairie, La., to attend Sunday’s game between the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

After returning to Boston by train, the family stepped onto the escalator just before it malfunctioned, “causing all the steps or treads of the escalator to rapidly reverse direction” and causing the Bethays “and numerous other passengers, to slide and fall down to the bottom of the escalator,” according to the affidavit.

Both parents and both children suffered “multiple injuries … including multiple fractures of the upper and lower extremities; extensive facial, scalp, head and body lacerations and other injuries,” and they were admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital, their attorneys wrote. Their injuries will also require further treatment, according to the document.

The lawsuit alleges that Kone and a “John Doe” were “negligent and careless with respect to the inspection, testing, servicing, safety, maintenance, and repair of the escalator.” The use of “John Doe” is a legal placeholder should the family decide to sue other entities.

The family’s injuries caused “great pain of body and anguish of mind” and will leave scars and a loss of function, the suit alleges, and have caused the family “substantial … medical expenses,” lost wages, and impaired earning capacity.

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Witnesses described a terrifying scene after the ascending escalator from the Amtrak and commuter rail platform to the station’s lobby suddenly reversed at a high speed shortly after 6 p.m., sending people tumbling backward.

The escalator malfunction came two weeks after Boston University professor David Jones fell to his death through a rusted, closed-off staircase near the JFK/UMass T station in Dorchester.

Two days later, a slow-moving MBTA train car derailed at Broadway station in South Boston and hit the platform. The impact left the subway car with cracked glass and deep scrapes along its side; MBTA officials said no one was injured.

A coalition of public transit advocates gathered at the State House on Thursday and called on state officials to improve MBTA safety and funding in the wake of the incidents.

“We all should be able to use the public infrastructure and carry out our jobs without facing the dangers that too many people have experienced in recent weeks,” said Collique Williams, an organizer with Community Labor United. “These disasters are not accidents. They are symptoms of the system that has been underfunded for too long.”

The T said in a statement Thursday afternoon that the agency remains committed to safety.

“The MBTA’s top priority is ensuring the safety and reliability of the system and it continues to invest billions of dollars on major infrastructure projects and procurements of new vehicles,” the T said.

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Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly reported which entities are being sued in a specific count of a lawsuit filed by a Louisiana family injured during a Sept. 26 escalator malfunction at Back Bay station. The negligence portion of the suit accuses Kone Inc. and “John Doe” of negligently failing to maintain and inspect the escalator.


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him @jeremycfox. John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him @JREbosglobe.