Earlier today, former Trojans running back Stafon Johnson filed a lawsuit against the University of Southern California and former assistant strength and conditioning coach, Jamie Yanchar, who now holds a similar position with the Seattle Seahawks. Because I’m a geek when it comes to legal stuff,I downloaded a copy of the complaint that Johnson and his lawyers filed and read the brief from start to finish in an attempt to paint a detailed picture of the situation. For those of you with an interest in reading the document, you can download it from TMZ.com by clicking here. For those of you who don’t give two craps about legalese, let me give you the SparkNotes version…
Johnson said that on September 28, 2009, he was lifting weights with the rest of the football team. He was on the bench press, and then assistant strength and conditioning coach Jamie Yanchar was to “spot” him. Johnson alleged that Yanchar was distracted–basically, that Yanchar had his attention on some other players in the room–and because Yanchar was distracted, Yanchar could bumped into the bar and caused the bar to slip from Johnson’s hands down to Johnson’s neck. We all know what happened after that (hospital, inspirational helmet stickers, loving tweets, etc.).
Johnson sued USC and Yanchar for negligence and is attempting to get paid for the pain and suffering that he experienced, for all his medical-related expenses, for the loss of earnings and loss of earning capacity that resulted, for the costs of the lawsuit, and for any interest on all of the aforementioned dollars as allowed by law.
Now, let’s get to the good stuff. Does Johnson have a strong case?
In my opinion (I’m not a lawyer, but law school is in my future), he has a decent case that I think he could win, but will likely be settled long before a trial would ever happen. There are four elements of negligence, so let me briefly explain what they are and how Johnson could argue each one….
1. Duty of Care
Simply put, this means that Yanchar had a responsibility in relation to Johnson. In this case, Yanchar had established that he would “spot” Johnson and ensure that Johnson could perform the lifts correctly, or at least safely. After all, isn’t that the purpose of a spotter? Furthermore, he was the assistant strength and conditioning coach, someone with authority and expertise.
2. Breach of Duty of Care
This basically asks whether Yanchar violated his duty/responsibility during the incident. If the facts as given in Johnson’s complaint are true, I would say “yes” to this component of negligence. According to Johnson, Yanchar’s attention was on other players in the weight room, not on Johnson, the bar, or Johnson’s soon-to-be bench press. As a result of his lack of attention, Yanchar bumped into the bar, which then fell out of Johnson’s hands and onto Johnson’s neck.
This is the most difficult part of negligence to prove. This posits whether, as a result of Yanchar not paying attention and bumping the bar, Johnson suffered the injury. I think the key to this part is the fact that Yanchar bumped the bar, thereby jarring it loose from Johnson’s grip. Had Yanchar not bumped the bar, Johnson probably would not have dropped it onto his own neck. This part of the discussion could go on for hours, so I’ll cut it off there.
This is straightforward. For one, Johnson just has to provide a medical bill.
So, there you have it. A condensed version of the lawsuit and its components. Go sound smart amongst your friends.
(Update: Johnson is on record having said: “This lawsuit has not reduced in any way my love for the cardinal and gold.” Great.)