One of the three teenage girls who became trapped under an elevator at the Classen School for Advanced Studies claims the November 2011 incident left her disfigured and in need of continuing medical treatment.
Ambri Tygard and her father filed a lawsuit against Oklahoma City Public Schools in June, seeking an unspecified amount of money on a negligence claim.
She is the only one of the three girls to file a lawsuit in connection with the incident, a search of court records shows.
Oklahoma City attorney Thomas Steece, who is representing Tygard, wrote in the petition that his client “has suffered permanent, progressive and painful injuries” due to the elevator incident.
Tygard “has suffered and will suffer physical and emotional pain and suffering ... as a result of the subject negligence,” he wrote. She “has suffered disfigurement ... and will sustain loss of enjoyment of life as a result of injuries and damages sustained.”
Now that Tygard has filed a lawsuit, the stance of Oklahoma City Public Schools appears to have changed.
Shortly after the Nov. 15, 2011, incident, district Superintendent Karl Springer said the door to the older, lift-style elevator should've been locked. Three days later, Springer said the door wasn't closing properly and that it was due to be fixed when the girls walked into the elevator shaft after a friend told them there was something cool to see inside.
“If they're guilty of anything, they may be guilty of curiosity,” Springer said. “It's not their fault.”
Yet, in a response to Tygard's lawsuit, the school district's attorney, Andy Fugitt, denied nearly all of the allegations made by the girl's lawyers.
“Plaintiff's own negligence was the sole cause of her injuries,” Fugitt wrote. “Plaintiff was comparatively negligent, and her comparative negligence is in sufficient percentage to reduce or bar any recovery herein.”
Despite the apparent contradiction, Fugitt said Monday the district's stance on the incident is unchanged.
“Superintendent Springer was speaking out of great concern for the students involved and based upon the information then available to him,” Fugitt said. “The position taken by the district in the lawsuit is based upon a good faith understanding of the facts and contains assertions of what may be proved to a court or jury depending on additional facts that may be developed in the lawsuit.”
Fugitt said the district's legal counsel investigated the elevator incident, but no final report was prepared.
The lawsuit against the school district, seeking at least $100,000 in damages, is pending in Oklahoma County District Court.
About her injuries
Of the three girls trapped under the elevator, Tygard, a seventh-grader at the time, was the most injured and stayed in the hospital for two days.
Tygard can be heard screaming for help in a 911 call made by one of the other girls pinned under the elevator.
“At first, when the elevator was coming down, I thought I was really going to die,” she told reporters at The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center, two days after the incident. “After it smashed me, I realized we were going to be OK, but I was in a lot of pain.”
Tygard said a bar pressed into her left hip as the elevator came to a rest on top of the three girls, who were lying on their backs, overlapping each other, as they tried to hold off the elevator.
In addition to the hip injury, Tygard also said she injured two disks in her back and that her leg went numb as she pushed with all her strength against the descending elevator.
Steece would not provide a description of his client's physical condition or say exactly how it is that she is disfigured.
Tygard is still a student at the school, as is one other girl, Steece said. The third girl is no longer enrolled there.