A jury reached a $51 million verdict in the landmark Philadelphia premises liability case of Shareif Hall v. SEPTA involving an escalator incident that tore off the foot of a 4-year-old boy.
The case drew widespread media attention, including a cover story in the Philadelphia Daily News. The 4-year-old, his brother and mother were exiting a SEPTA subway station in North Philadelphia from a shopping trip for Thanksgiving dinner when a step on the escalator malfunctioned, severing Shareif’s right foot.
Robert Ross commenced the litigation in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and conducted countless deposition and pre-trial discovery in the case.
During the trial, it was revealed that SEPTA had known for several years that the escalator at the Cecil B. Moore Station at the North Philadelphia Broad Street station exit was in disrepair.
At trial, Ross’s dogged questioning of a key SEPTA official brought to light that the transit agency withheld documents, tampered with evidence and obstructed the legal process in the case. Those revelations uncovered by Ross prompted the trial judge, the Hon. Frederica Massiah-Jackson, to hammer SEPTA with a $1 million contempt citation.
Since the verdict, there has been a massive overhaul of the transit authority that includes the creation of a new department intended to ensure the safety of escalators and the maintenance of all other infrastructure.
Shareif and his mother and family have since moved to another state in an attempt to get past the haunting memories of what happened. The family is said to be doing well.