$15M Settlement: Animated Foot Trapped in Escalator
A 10-year-old girl on a back-to-school shopping trip at Macy's would be forever traumatized after her foot was swallowed under the teeth of a landing plate at the top of an escalator. As the escalator ground her foot and leg into its gears, copious amounts of blood and tissue were distributed over at least 11 steps until another shopper finally hit the “Emergency Stop” button. Her injury would require 22 surgeries to save her mangled foot from amputation.
Today, the 14-year-old girl walks with a limp and extremely stunted growth in her injured leg. Her healthy leg underwent surgery to slow its growth rate and match the speed of her injured leg. These severe disabilities will likely plague her for the rest of her life, and Samuel Davis, Esq., needed to show why she deserved major compensation.
We prepared Mr. Davis with an arsenal of strategic visuals to show what went wrong, how it could have been avoided, the young girl's surgical experience, and the irreversible damage she now suffers as a result of the incident. We delivered the following exhibits:
- Animated Escalator Summary to break down the important internal and external escalator mechanics relevant to the case, and establish prerequisite knowledge for future discussions of failure.
- Animated Point of Failure to focus attention on where and why the failure occurred, and demonstrate how following regulations would have significantly reduced the chances of entrapment.
- Animated Mechanism of Injury to show how the escalator trapped and mangled the young girl’s foot up to her lower calf.
- 360 Animated Injury to anchor Mr. Davis’ case with a powerfully memorable visual of damages that would leave an emotional impression on his audience.
- Illustrated Injury Summary to establish the totality of injuries suffered by the plaintiff at every level: skin, muscles, nerves, vessels, and bone.
- Multiple Animated Surgeries to show the many procedures needed to rescue her foot from amputation, drain blood from her ear drums, and purposely stunt the growth of her healthy leg to match the slower growth rate of her stunted leg.
- Digital Injury Summary to organize all these exhibits into an interactive presentation that would give Mr. Davis complete control over the delivery of his visuals.
The following visual presentation helped Mr. Davis return a $15M verdict for the young victim.
Animated Escalator Summary
The first animation breaks down the internal and external mechanics of the escalator model - as originally designed by its manufacturer - making sure to focus on the important features that would establish prerequisite knowledge for future talking points.
The camera rotates into several different positions, fading from the exterior to the interior to identify the important components most relevant to Mr. Davis’ case. A single step is isolated, fading off the surrounding escalator to view and identify the step's subcomponents. The top landing floor plate is then faded on as labels identify the comb plate and comb teeth. The camera then zooms back out to a full view of the escalator and the animation concludes.
Animated Escalator Failure
The second animation focuses attention on the point of failure and demonstrates how following proper maintenance regulations could have significantly reduced the chances of entrapment.
The second animation opens with an establishing shot of the escalator in its powered, operational state. The camera zooms into position to observe the area near the top landing and demonstrate the escalator's mechanism of step movement. The camera then zooms into the landing plate to highlight the interface between the step tread and the comb plate.
Statements identify the meshing of the step tread as a safety feature, designed to eliminate the gap between the step and the landing plate, and reduce the possibility of entrapment.
Chains and sprockets should be free of dirt and wear, maintain proper lubrication, and chains should be free of excess slack... The comb teeth should mesh with and set into the tread surface so that the teeth are always below the upper surface of the treads.
American Society of Engineers Safety Code
The camera zooms in to observe the interface of the step tread and the comb plate teeth. Measurement overlays call out the appropriate clearance distance between the bottom of the comb teeth and the bottom of the step thread, as well as the appropriate overlap distance between the bottom of the comb teeth and the top of the step thread.
Animated Mechanism of Injury
The third animation opens with a shaky establishing shot of the misaligned plates that existed the day of the injury at the top of the escalator. Had the escalator been in compliance with safety regulations, the following animation could have been avoided.
The animation opens with the young girl and her family at the bottom of the escalator. Twenty-three excruciating seconds unfold as she approaches one of the most painful injuries imaginable. Knowing the conclusion builds emotional anticipation and drives empathy for the inevitable damage that could have been avoided.
At the moment of injury, we show the escalator's comb plate pop open as the young girl's leg disappears into the escalator's unrelenting machinery. We ended with a 360 animation of the injury to anchor the aftermath, as explained below.
360 Animated Injury
Every strong case needs a strong "visual anchor." We recreated a 3D model of the young girl's foot immediately after its injury, and rotate it in 360 degrees to show its destruction from every angle.
We call this a "visual anchor" because it anchors people's understanding of the injury with an unforgettable image that they will remember when considering damages.
We accurately recreated a model of the young girl's foot immediately after the injury using hospital photos from multiple angles and X-ray scans.
Jung Park, Director of Medical Interactives, High Impact
Illustrated Injury Summary
After establishing liability and introducing damages with a highly memorable visual anchor, we illustrated every layer of the plaintiff's damages through the skin, muscles, nerves, vessels and bone.
We also gave Mr. Davis the ability to rotate each exhibit and show the each layer of the injury from multiple angles.
This second tool enabled Mr. Davis to compare every angle of layer of the injury at the same time.
After establishing every angle and layer of the plaintiff's damages, we animated the long list of complex surgical procedures required to save what was left of her foot from amputation.
The first surgery animation establishes the injury, shows the removal of dead skin, and illustrates the suturing of major wounds. It concludes with the placement of a vacuum pump that uses negative pressure to remove fluids and infectious materials, and a foam dressing to support healing.
The second surgery animation demonstrates how surgeons inserted tubes into the young victim’s ears in order to drain the blood from inside her ear drum, which resulted from the impact of her fall.
Two days later, an external fixator was placed around the patient’s foot. Pins were drilled into her bones to secure the metal hardware into position. Infected tissue was again debrided from the wound, and another vacuum pump was applied with dressing.
After two days, more skin was removed, the wound was irrigated, and more infected tissue was debrided from the area. Another vacuum pump was applied with dressing.
The wound was again irrigated and debrided the next day. Following the repetitious procedure, surgeons sutured a major wound across her ankle, and multiple wounds above her toes. Another vacuum pump was applied with dressing.
Over the next five days, the young girl would undergo the same procedures another three times. Surgeons would remove infected tissue, irrigate the area, and apply a vacuum pump with dressing to support healing. Reinforcing this repetitive process emphasizes the longitude of suffering the young victim experienced.
This next animation depicts a replaced set of tube being inserted to drain more blood from the victim’s ear drum.
The patient was placed in a hyperbolic chamber filled with 100 percent oxygen and atmospheric controls to promote faster healing.
Fourteen days after the initial injury, the young victim would undergo another debridement procedure, but this time she would have two of her toes amputated.
Sutures were removed four days later, as well more non-viable tissue. Another vacuum pump was placed with dressing.
Two days later, surgeons removed a bone capsule from the patient’s middle toe, a bone fragment from her big toe, and more non-viable tissue. Another vacuum pump was placed with dressing.
Over the next couple weeks, the patient would undergo the same repetitious procedure four more times: irrigating the area, removing more dead tissue, debriding the wound, and applying vacuum pumps with dressing to promote healing - over and over again.
A month after her initial injury, the plaintiff would finally be implanted with muscles and new skin tissue over her foot, but the muscles and skin would need to be harvested from her Latissimus Dorsi Muscle and her legs.
Muscles were harvested with the arteries and veins attached. The harvested arteries and veins were sutured to the tibial arteries and veins, and the muscle was sutured to the foot. The skin was grafted off the patient’s thighs and sutured around her foot.
After almost two long months, she was finally discharged from the hospital.
Four months later she would see her external fixator and K-wires removed.
Six months later she would need steroid injections to reduce scarring.
A year-and-a-half after her injury, it became apparent that her injured leg was suffering a stunted growth. With one leg growing faster than the other, and no way to speed the growth of the injured leg, surgeons decide to stunt the growth of her healthy leg to balance them out.
The visual presentation helped the Defense understand why the traumatic experience and damages were so severe and life-altering, it would be smarter to settle for $15M than take this in front of a jury.
The High Impact presentation brought together the liability and damages strengths of my case in a powerful way. It was without-a-doubt the tipping point in convincing Macy's to pay the entire amount of our offer of judgment.