Stafon Johnson, a former University of Southern California tailback filed a lawsuit against the university in Los Angeles County Superior Court Monday. The lawsuit alleges negligence on behalf of former assistant strength coach Jamie Yanchar and the school in relation to a September 2009 weightlifting accident that threatened Johnson’s life and football career.
Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Yanchar was distracted and not paying attention to Johnson at the time of the incident and thus “failed to take notice that, as the bar was being lifted from the rack, Johnson was not then ready to take hold of and lift the bar.” It also alleges that Yanchar, then in his 19th year at USC, was “negligently and carelessly inattentive” to properly placing the bar into Johnson’s hands and instead paying attention toward one or more other members of the footbalfl team who were not then engaging in weightlifting activities.
As reported by ESPN, Johnson was injured during mandatory team weightlifting workouts at approximately 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 28, 2009. Initial reports from the incident implied that Johnson’s hands slipped and lost control of a bar while bench-pressing 275 pounds, causing the bar to drop and land on his neck and throat, but Johnson’s lawyer, Carl Douglas, said that was not accurate.
“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. “We think for that, those that are responsible should be held responsible for their actions.”
Johnson underwent several surgeries and therapy for his injuries stemming from the accident.
“USC firmly believes it was not at fault in Stafon Johnson’s unfortunate weightlifting accident,” USC said in a statement released Monday afternoon. “We are sorry that Stafon was injured. USC and the entire Trojan Family have been exceptionally supportive of Stafon from the minute the accident occurred. We are disappointed to learn that Stafon has decided to file a lawsuit against USC.”
“As you could imagine, there have been efforts in the past to resolve this matter quietly and informally,” Douglas said. “Regrettably, they were not successful, so we were left with no other option but to file this lawsuit.”
All High School, Collegiate, and Professional Sports programs have or should have rules in place regarding weight room safety. The failure to have rules and regulations in place is negligence. Likewise, the failure to implement or follow the rules and regulations is also negligence. For example, in this case Johnson alleges that the coach was inattentive while “spotting” Johnson. That, if proven, is negligence.
Javon was a Player for The Daytona Beach Thunder, when he broke his neck while making a tackle. Following the tackle Javon fell to the ground and laid there waiting for qualified medical personnel to arrive. What ensued was chaos. Neither the team nor the league were prepared to handle a medical emergency and Javon went into cardiac arrest and died. While the league discussed having an emergency protocol, they never enforced it nor implemented it. As a result there were not any qualified medical personnel on the field to help Javon. Had the team and the league been prepared to handle a medical emergency like this, something you would expect in a tackle football game at any level, Javon would not have died.
In Javon’s case we had videotape evidence of Javon’s tackle and the ensuing moments. It will be interesting to see if there is any videotape evidence of Stafon Johnson’s accident. I suspect the answer is NO, because of the radically different versions of the accident that both parties have.
Mark Kaire has been practicing law in Miami for nearly 30 years. He is dedicated to helping the injured people of Miami receive compensation. Mr. Kaire has been blogging on Miami’s legal issues for many years.