Ganna Makeeva, a veteran of runway shows for Dolce & Gabana and Giorgio Armani who has been featured on the covers of international magazines such as Vogue and Marie Claire, said her career was likely ended by injuries she suffered after falling through a floor on the set of Burnett's "Chrome Couture" shoot for Cadillac's Escalade.
Painful reminder for Burnett
For Burnett, the lawsuit may be insult to injury, as the commercial was also later cited as one reason Cadillac shifted its ad account -- handled by Burnett and its predecessor agencies since the 1930s -- to Boston-based Modernista only a few months later.
Calls to Burnett were not immediately returned.
New York-based Demand Productions was also named in the suit, which was filed in California State Superior Court.
Ms. Makeeva's version of the events says the commercial, which contained a blinding array of lights, mirrored surfaces and celebrity cameos, made her disoriented and unable to spot a defect in the runway she was asked to traverse without a rehearsal.
According to the lawsuit: "As Ms. Makeeva walked down the runway, light bulbs continuously flashed in front of, and on the sides of, the stage, blinding her as she walked. Mirrors and other reflective objects surrounding the stage enhanced the blinding effect, thereby making it even more difficult for the models, including Ms. Makeeva, to see."
Suit: couldn't see catwalk
Ms. Makeeva in the suit says there were no rehearsals for her walk down the runway and because she could not see the floor, had to "navigate the catwalk based entirely upon her perception of the location of the flashing lights around her." Her first trip down the catwalk during filming went without incident, but when "she turned to make her way back down the runway ... she abruptly and violently fell through a hole in the stage floor. As she fell, her left knee slammed against the sides of the gap in the stage and sharp, jagged edges of the hole slashed parts of her body, bloodying her hands and legs."
The suit says she underwent injuries to her "legs, knee, hands, wrists, stomach, head, neck and rib cage" and that she "has already undergone one knee surgery and must undergo yet another one to try to repair the painful and debilitating injury caused by the fall. She presently attends multiple therapy sessions each week in an effort to heal and recover from injuries she sustained."
The ad -- finished with other models -- ultimately earned 2.5 out of four stars from Ad Age critic Bob Garfield, who wrote at the time: "This is beauty photography, ostensibly eye-catching and sexy, in which slinky, exotic runway models strut their couture fashions while dripping with liquid chrome. Then, up from the vat, rises the 2006 Escalade, also slick with chrome. The visual is designed to stop you in your tracks. It won't."
A spokeswoman for Ms. Makeeva's attorneys said the model hasn't worked full time since the December 2005 incident during the commercial's filming, nor can she work full time again as a model. She is seeking unspecified punitive or compensatory damages for her pain, suffering and emotional distress, as well as for her alleged lost means of income.