A girl who sued Oklahoma City Public Schools after she became trapped under an elevator in November 2011 at the Classen School of Advanced Studies has agreed to a $50,000 settlement with the state's largest school district, court records show.
Ambri Tygard, one of three girls trapped under the lift-style elevator on Nov. 15, 2011, and her father filed a lawsuit against Oklahoma City Public Schools more than a year ago, claiming the incident left the teenager “disfigured.”
Oklahoma City attorney Thomas Steece, who represented Tygard, wrote in the petition that his client “has suffered permanent, progressive and painful injuries” because of the elevator incident.
Tygard “has suffered and will suffer physical and emotional pain and suffering ... as a result of the subject negligence,” Steece wrote. She “has suffered disfigurement ... and will sustain loss of enjoyment of life as a result of injuries and damages sustained.”
According to the terms of the settlement, nearly half of the $50,000 settlement will go to pay Tygard's medical bills.
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 one another, 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.
The settlement also requires $18,558 in legal fees be paid by Tygard and her father, who also is listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit filed against the school district.
The remaining $7,884 will be held in an “interest-bearing trust for the benefit of Ambriana Tygard ... until she reaches the age of 18,” court records show.
According to reports at the time of the incident, Tygard and two friends walked into the elevator shaft after a friend told them there was something “cool” to see inside.
Once Tygard and the two others were inside, a friend who was standing outside of the shaft shut the door, which automatically locked it. The elevator soon began to descend, nearly crushing the girls.
Three days after the incident, district Superintendent Karl Springer said the door to the older, lift-style elevator wasn't closing properly and that it was due to be fixed when the girls ventured into the shaft that day.
“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.”
Fugitt said the district's legal counsel investigated the elevator incident, but no final report was ever prepared.