LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – An aspiring surgeon was Christmas shopping at Park Plaza mall five years ago when her boot got caught in an escalator.
It ripped off her big toe.
This week, a Pulaski County jury awarded 27-year-old Aisha Siddiqui $3 million.
“They [Park Plaza] never contacted her, they never said they were sorry, they never came and said, ‘What can we do to help?,'” said Denise Hoggard, Siddiqui’s attorney.
Until last week, Hoggard said the mall maintained Siddiqui was at fault for her injury. Park Plaza admitted liability, which changed this week’s trial. The jury only had to determine what harms and losses were caused by the mall’s negligence, and agreed Siddiqui was entitled to $3 million for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering and disfigurement.
“Not a flip flip, not a flimsy shoe but her boot went all the way under that comb teeth plate, and it was trapped in a gap,” Hoggard said. “What we know is that gaps permit traps.”
According to the mall’s surveillance video, Siddiqui, then 22, got stuck while she was going down the escalator on Dec. 10, 2013 about an hour before closing. When she got to the bottom, Hoggard said it trapped her foot and kept moving for ten seconds, shredding her boot and toe, before someone shut it off. Siddiqui is not in the video at this point, but other shoppers can be seen running back up the escalator to safety.
Hoggard said she later found out that Good Samaritan knew what to do because he had to push the same emergency button a couple weeks prior at the same mall for the same escalator.
“This escalator was installed in 1988, and it had not been upgraded to include those safety devices,” she said. “It was outdated technology that didn’t have the benefit of technology that could have avoided this injury altogether.”
Siddiqui lost her toe. Three days later, the Donaghey Scholar at UA-Little Rock was wheeled across the stage to accept her diploma.
“She was heavily medicated, and she was in great pain,” Hoggard said.
Siddiqui’s pain continues as she learns how to walk on the side of her foot, preparing for knee, hip and back problems as she ages.
“Every step she takes, she doesn’t have that locomotion to propel her forward,” Hoggard said.
Today, Siddiqui is a 27-year-old medical student whose dreams of becoming a surgeon were cut short because she can no longer stand for more than a few hours at a time.
“She simply doesn’t want to put patients at the kind of Russian roulette risk that she was placed on when she put her foot on to that escalator,” Hoggard said.
Siddiqui now hopes to become a physician. Her family’s life has been dedicated to medicine. Her mother is a doctor at the VA, and her father is an anesthesiologist at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
Nearly a year after the “Christmas shopping nightmare” occurred, Siddiqui filed suit. She did not want to be on camera but gave KARK the following statement:
“I never wanted to be involved in a lawsuit and I had to relive this horrible experience when I testified about it. It was never about the money. I did this because they were telling me this was my fault and I knew it wasn’t. My hope is that this will go a long way to helping keep public safety in the minds of companies responsible to protecting us all.”
Park Plaza said in a statement it disagrees with the jury’s verdict and will likely appeal the decision.