Escalating concerns: Are you safe between floors at the mall?

PORTLAND, Ore. - A Portland family is suing the Lloyd Center mall after they say an escalator malfunctioned, burning their son's hand.

Richard Burns was 4 years old when the accident happened at the Lloyd Center Marshall's in 2011.

His mother, Latisha Storey, says Richard needed a skin graft and has been dealing with a lasting psychological impact.

"It was like it just burned through his soul," Storey said.

Attorneys representing the family, Elizabeth Welch and Jeremiah Ross, say the escalator was "antiquated." The escalator was installed back in 1960.

The KATU Investigators looked into the state inspection records for the escalator in question, and found it was marked "unsatisfactory" in a quarter of the inspections it has received over the past 27 years (though the escalator was installed in 1960, records available at time of this report only go back to 1986).

Inspectors from the Oregon Building Codes Division inspect every escalator in the state annually to make sure they comply with safety standards set by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Several times, the escalator that injured Richard had to be re-inspected because it wasn't getting necessary routine cleanings.

In 2007, it was "red-tagged" -- temporarily removed from service -- by the state because it had not received required bi-annual cleanings.

On Your Side Investigators also looked at accident reports filed over the past few years from other mall escalators across Oregon.

Most of the reports filed were about escalators in Lloyd Center -- though in many cases, it wasn't clear whether the escalator malfunctioned.

In one incident at Lloyd Center, for instance, an escalator "ate" a child's shoe. The inspector in this case recommended minor adjustments to the escalator, but couldn't pinpoint the cause of the accident.

In another Lloyd Center accident, a woman fell and hurt her knee after an escalator stopped suddenly.

On the accident report, by the line reading 'Is the cause of the accident apparent?' the inspector wrote "Don't know."

Lloyd Center representatives declined KATU's request for an interview, but did email us a response reading, in part:

"Lloyd Center's twelve escalators are annually inspected, consistent with the requirements of the State of Oregon. Our escalators are routinely maintained to insure proper working order. As is the case with any moving machinery device, all escalators, including those at Lloyd Center, require a certain amount of user responsibility and diligence to help prevent accidents."

The Oregon Building Codes Division also declined our request for an on-camera interview. But in an email, a representative told us escalators have a "great track record of performing safely" and that the biggest hazard to escalator riders is riders themselves "not following the posted safety guidelines."

On Your Side Investigators confirmed through public accident records that the majority of accidents that occurred on mall escalators in Oregon were caused by people tripping, stumbling or horsing around.