$3 Million, plus national safety campaign after death of 8-year-old boy
U.S. District Court, District of Maine, Portland
For 70 years, a poorly designed elevator had been killing and seriously injuring children across the country. Some of those cases ended up in court, but no one connected the dots to see the larger picture. Documents remained secret and the deaths were kept quiet through confidentiality agreements and the actions of Otis Elevator Co.
It took a courageous and heartbroken Maryland family, backed by a determined lawyer from Portland, Maine, to shed light on dozens of deaths that could have been prevented, and to force action to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.
Attorney Terry Garmey represented Jeff and Mary Smith, and their two daughters. The family received a $3 million settlement from Otis for the death of their 8-year-old son, Tucker, on Aug. 21, 2001. Tucker was trapped between the folding inner gate and the solid outer door of an elevator at a country inn in Bethel, Maine. Garmey’s pursuit of the truth uncovered a hidden legacy of child deaths and injuries caused by that style of elevator, dating back to the 1930s. The search led Garmey to key documents in another lawyer’s basement, which were about to be thrown out.
The Smiths focused not only on justice for Tucker, but on preventing future tragedies. Ultimately, Otis agreed to initiate a national safety campaign, including distribution of free guards for elevators with the design flaw – too much space between the inner gate and the outer door. Otis also led a national legislative campaign to persuade states and municipalities to improve codes. More than 4,000 elevators were made safer through the installation of guards.
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