Tuesday 19 June 2018

David Copperfield not liable for UK tourist’s Las Vegas show injuries – jury

Gavin Cox and his wife had alleged negligence by the multimillionaire illusionist.

David Copperfield appears in court in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
David Copperfield appears in court in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

By Associated Press Reporter

Illusionist David Copperfield has been found negligent but not financially responsible for a British tourist’s injuries during a vanishing act in a show on the Las Vegas Strip.

Gavin Cox and his wife alleged negligence by the multimillionaire illusionist, two of his business entities, the MGM Grand hotel and a construction firm that was carrying out renovations.

In a complex verdict reached after several weeks of testimony but only about two hours of deliberation, a state civil court jury in Nevada found negligence by Copperfield, the hotel and Copperfield’s company, Backstage Disappearing Inc.

But jurors found no liability for each of those named in the lawsuit, and instead found the former chef from Kent 100% responsible for his own injuries.

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Gavin Cox gives evidence during the civil trial (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal/AP)

The verdict means the Coxes cannot seek monetary damages, court spokeswoman Mary Ann Price said.

Mr Cox, 57, alleged that he suffered brain and other injuries in the 2013 fall.

He told the court that stagehands urged him and others to run during an illusion that appeared to make as many as 13 audience volunteers disappear onstage and reappear moments later, waving flashlights in the back of the theatre.

His lawyer, Benedict Morelli, told jurors during closing arguments that the trick was inherently dangerous and that Copperfield should be held partially liable for Mr Cox’s injuries.

Four years ago, attorneys estimated that Mr Cox had that racked up more than 400,000 dollars (£240,000) in medical costs.

Copperfield’s lawyers lost a bid to close the courtroom to the public to prevent disclosure of secrets about the illusion.

Jurors learned that in about 60 to 90 seconds, stagehands with flashlights ushered the randomly chosen participants past dark curtains, down passageways, around corners, outdoors, indoors and through an MGM Grand resort kitchen to re-enter the theatre for the show’s finale, according to testimony.

Mr Cox told the jury he was “having a good time up until the time I was injured”.

He recalled stagehands shouting “Run! Run! Run!” through an outdoor alleyway that his lawyers say was coated with construction dust.

Mr Cox said he fell hard on his right side and did not remember getting up to finish the illusion in November 2013.

Afterwards, Mr Cox said he received medical treatment from paramedics and at a hospital for shoulder and other injuries.

Two days later, he and his wife and a lawyer returned to the theatre at the MGM Grand and filed an accident report.

At least 55,000 audience volunteers had taken part in the trick over 17 years, according to the magician and show executive producer Chris Kenner.

Copperfield testified that until Mr Cox sued in August 2014, he never knew of anyone getting hurt during nearly 20 years performing the illusion on tour and in Las Vegas. He said he stopped performing it in 2015.

The magician said he did not see construction dust on the ground when he passed through the same outdoor alley alone as part of another illusion about 10 minutes earlier.

Mr Cox’s lawyers brought in three women who testified that they also were injured.

Press Association

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