US football player sues university over weightlifting incident

February 1, 2011

Uncategorized

Former University of Southern California tailback Stafon Johnson filed a lawsuit last week against his alma mater alleging negligence and recklessness on behalf of former assistant strength and conditioning coach Jamie Yanchar and the university in relation to a weightlifting incident one-and-a-half years ago.

Johnson was injured during mandatory team weightlifting workouts on 28 September 2009. It was initially reported (read article here) that Johnson lost control of a bar while bench-pressing 275 pounds causing the bar to drop and land on his neck and throat. He underwent multiple surgeries for the injuries stemming from the incident. Johnson was sidelined for the remainder of the 2009 season, was passed over in the 2010 NFL draft but signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tennessee Titans.

Johnson now claims that he didn’t lose his grip and drop the bar on himself. The suit claims Yanchar hit the bar with his own body before Johnson had a grip on it with both hands thereby causing it to fall across his throat. The lawsuit further alleges that Yanchar was negligently and carelessly inattentive to properly placing the bar into Johnson’s hands and making sure that Johnson was ready for the bar to be placed into his hands.

It further alleges that Yanchar failed to use the care, skill and attention ordinarily exercised in like cases by competent, reputable and reasonable members of their profession practicing in the same or a similar locality under similar circumstances, and to use reasonable diligence and care in the exercise of skill, in an effort to supervise the practice and to safely and properly spot Johnson while he was bench pressing 275 pounds. The bar was dropped, hit, and/or fell – the statement alleges – onto Johnson’s neck as a result of the Yanchar’s negligent, reckless and careless acts and omissions.

USC issued a statement saying that it ‘firmly believes it was not at fault in Stafon Johnson’s unfortunate weightlifting accident. We are sorry that Stafon was injured.’

At the time of the incident Johnson was in his senior year at USC and was the starting tailback and the leading rusher on the football team.

It is interesting that Johnson’s suit is seeking damages for lost earnings and loss of future earnings.

As Johnson missed most of his senior year following the incident, he was not drafted. Players who are drafted sign bigger contracts than those who are not.

In a preseason game with the Tennessee Titans, Johnson suffered an ankle injury and subsequently missed the entire season.

Being undrafted as a consequence of his laryngeal fracture no doubt compromised the size of his contract. Missing his rookie season with the Titans also devaluated Johnson’s future worth to the team.

The court will be challenged, not only to find USC at fault for Johnson’s injury, but to calculate the difference in what he could have earned as a drafted player versus a walk-on and to determine the difference in future income as a result of the weightlifting incident even though Johnson sustained a season ending injury which too will have the effect of diminishing his income generating potential.

None of the allegations have been proven.

Here’s a pdf of the complaint for damages – Johnson v USC and Yanchar

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One Comment on “US football player sues university over weightlifting incident”

  1. Monex Says:

    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 Johnsons 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 Johnsons hands and instead paying attention toward one or more other members of the football team who were not then engaging in weightlifting activities…As reported by Johnson was injured during mandatory team weightlifting workouts at approximately 11 a.m.

    Reply

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