Performers are used to being in somewhat precarious physical situations. However, they trust that their training and the safety equipment and precautions provided by the show will be enough to prevent injury. Unfortunately, that’s too often not the case.
In a recent incident, a young Broadway actor was seriously injured while performing in the musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” According to court documents, the lift on which he was supposed to spring upward malfunctioned, causing his foot to become trapped between the lift and the stage. His foot was crushed in three places.
New York personal injury lawyers note in his recently-filed lawsuit, he alleges negligence by the show’s engineering consultants, producers and others pursuant to the design and operation of that lift. As a result, he has had to undergo several surgeries, with three-quarters of his foot having now been replaced with tissue from other areas of his body. His foot for the foreseeable future is in an orthopedic boot. It’s not clear whether he will ever again be able to return to Broadway.
The show’s producers conceded shortly after the August 2013 incident that while the computerized equipment was working, there was some type of human error, though it was not specified.
The Occupational Health & Safety Administration took a closer look too, and found problems on the set. Primarily, the lift didn’t have any machine guarding, which would have been necessary to keep performers safe from certain crushing hazards when the lift rose to the stage. This particular violation was deemed “serious,” and a nearly $3,000 penalty was proposed against the producers. Another $400 penalty has been proposed for the producers’ failure to turn over investigatory documents within the proper time frame.
The producers settled with OSHA in December, agreeing to pay $2,880 in penalties and setting machine guarding during the rest of the show’s run, which ended in early January. The settlement did not require the producers to admit that the actor’s injuries were proximately caused by the lack of guarding.
Another problematic issue, according to the lawsuit, is that performers carrying out risky stunts may not be adequately trained and/or rehearsed. In an interview with The New York Times, the plaintiff was quoted as saying that the actors would rehearse, but it was often “unpredictable” and “a circus,” with equipment frequently failing or not working as designed.
The plaintiff in this case wasn’t the only performer injured in this production. In December 2010, another performer sustained a fractured skull, shoulder and ribs when he fell more than 20 feet from the stage platform after a tether failed to catch him.
In April 2011, another stunt man alleged he sustained numerous injuries because the computers that operate the lifts and other safety equipment weren’t properly calibrated to support his weight. As a result, he was tossed into a wall.
The plaintiff in the most recent case says that while workers’ compensation benefits did help to defray some of the costs, it hasn’t covered everything. It also hasn’t covered the funds necessary for certain medical equipment, supplies and medication. The total bills, he says, have now approached $1 million.
The Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC offers free consultations. Call 1-877-313-7673.
Injured ‘Spider-Man’ Dancer Discusses His Lawsuit, Feb. 26, 2014, By Patrick Healy, The New York Times
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