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Johnson To Sue Spotter (USC)


Remember this one? I forgot all about Johnson, who crushed his trachea in a bench press accident. He is suing USC, citing negligence on behalf of the S&C coach who was spotting him at the time of the accident. Also, didn't know about that injury w/the Titans. This guy badly needs a desk job.


Wow....I guess he needs the money because there is no way in hell I see this working out in his favor.

If he wins, then any time you even spot someone casually at the gym, if they drop the weight on themselves, you can get sued.

No one did that to him. No one forced him to use a weight he couldn't actually lift, did they?


As I recall, the weight he guillotined himself with was 275lb. Pure speculation, but this screams of another false grip case.


I think the bar just fell out of his hands. It was like 225 or something.

This is bullshit. There is nothing the spotter could have done to help him in this case unless he had been actively lifting the weight for him when it happened. Hopefully it gets dismissed.


If it is less than 300lbs, I would be too embarrassed to sue.


As I recall, he was using a suicide grip. He brought it upon himself.


The S&C coach let him use a false grip. I am not big on lawsuits but that guy needs a new line of work.


the article says it was 275.... and they also alluded to the fact that the weight was knocked out of his hand.

"What we say occurred is that the bar was basically knocked out of his hand, causing it to fall on Stafon's neck, almost causing him to die," Douglas said at a news conference Monday afternoon.

thats what the attorney said. If that is the case then he has a legit case. Especially if the S&C coach was the one who allegedly knocked it out his hands.


Yes, if he knocked it out his hands, I hope he wins....but again, I hope some of you are thinking about what that means to the rest of us when in the gym.

If he wins, I won't be spotting anyone else.....ever.


I didn't read the article, but it's a bit more complicated than that legally (civil) speaking.

First, I'd say yes, even as a "casual spotter" in the gym, if you were not paying attention or otherwise negligent, I think you could be successfully sued. This does not mean you have some absolute duty to prevent an accident, because there are inherent dangers that come with lifting weights, but if you agreed to spot someone and you weren't paying attention, I think you could be found liable.

Remember, you have no "legal duty" to provide someone with a "spot". However, once you agree and assume that responsibility, you cannot do so without taking reasonable care to perform that duty to the best of your ability. Put simply, this means that you cannot be looking at the hottie in the spandex while someone is under the bar. However, as I said, you're under no absolute duty to prevent any accidents - just to use reasonable care.

Moving onto the case in point, the scenario is a bit different than that of the casual gym spotter. The "spotter" in this case was a coach and there would be a heightened duty to enforce safe lifting practices and to be diligent with "spotting". I don't know all the facts, but I can guarantee you the case goes forward and there might be a recovery by the injured player.


I'm sure that USC will settle out of court for an undisclosed amount and this thing will be done with. Thats what usually happens in these types of situations.


Well, this is not really correct. As a coach, and in the interest of safety, you can insist your players use the cage with the safety spots adjusted properly. The last 9 years of my lifting was done at home alone and this is what I did. The amount of weight is irrelevant, as the bar slipping is a foreseeable risk. This case really isn't as easy as you guys are perceiving it.

I will say however, that I very much agree that this would have been very difficult to prevent. However, I've been saying for a long time the bench is an inherently dangerous lift to spot for this very reason. I don't think benching in the cage takes anything away from the lift and I've been advocating benching in the cage for even PL competitions. A slip just happens too damn quick.

To be honest, I think I'd have my athletes benching in a cage. It may sound extreme, but that accident does not happen in a cage. Period. Remember the Kenny Powers line, that you're not training to be the best at working out - these guys are athletes first.


Here is an excerpt from the Sports Illustrated article and the link

[b]"Johnson was bench-pressing 275 pounds in the USC weight room when the bar dropped or fell onto his neck in September 2009. His throat and larynx were crushed and he required reconstructive surgery.

Assistant strength and conditioning coach Jamie Yanchar, who was responsible for spotting Johnson during his lifting, was also named in the complaint.

The lawsuit claims Yanchar was "distracted and not paying attention to Mr. Johnson at the time that the bar was being lifted from the weight rack," as the plaintiff was lifting 275 pounds for the first time.

As Yanchar placed the weight bar into the player's hands, he was inattentive and negligent and hit the bar with his body before Johnson had a good grip on it, the lawsuit said.

"The bar was knocked off balance and slipped," the lawsuit claims, landing on Johnson's neck."[/b]



Or, his coach could have actually "coached" him and not let him use that grip while he was training in a school facility. It's just like if I'm training one of my sons and I see him doing that. I stop him, correct him and tell him why it's a bad idea. I do not let him do it under my supervision.


If the accident had killed the bencher what would this be categorized as? Involuntary manslaughter?


As a professional earning a decent living, you may want to politely refuse because the risk of liability to you is very real. And you can just suggest that they ask the gym staff. That said, although the "risk" is real, the chances that someone will be catastrophically injured while you're spotting is unlikely, but a risk nonetheless.

I know this is not intuitive to you guys, but this case has merit. I handled insurance litigation for 20 years. This is what I did. And I was the one deciding who gets paid, how much, and who we go to trial against. And I was very good at it. If I owned a gym, I would not permit my staff to spot people. They would be instructed to instruct people to use the cage. While in the cage, I'd permit spotting. The bench press IS dangerous. As is the squat. We both know both lifts can be done in the cage with no restrictions.


This is almost a certainty. Unless of course they are just too far apart in terms of compensation.


This alone is enough for a finding of liability, assuming the allegation is true. If I were the plaintiff attorney, I'd have no problem finding an expert to testify as to the dangers of the bench press and the alternatives available, such as dumbbells and bench pressing in the cage.

Really easy case to win guys.


Casually spotting someone in the gym in no way places the liability on the spotter. In no contract I've ever seen does it say "if you agree to spot a bro, you assume all responsibility if the weight falls on his neck". So agreeing to spot someone should have absolutely no liability for the spotter. I doubt they'd even get a case through suing the gym.

On the other hand it's an entirely different story if a staff member (read: S&C coach) is spotting and an accident happens. However in this case the suit should not be that the bar was allowed to fall, but that the coach allowed him to lift a weight he was guaranteed to fail on or to use a false grip.


They will throw money at him to go away, they do not want any more bad press in light of the sanctions and Reggie Bush's bullshit.