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USC MBA student alleges injury during required trapeze lesson

By Web Staff

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    LOS ANGELES (KCAL) — A former USC business student is suing the university, alleging she was badly injured while performing a trapeze exercise required of her as an elective while working toward her MBA.

Jill Johnson’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit also names as a defendant the Santa Monica Trapeze School LLC. The complaint alleges premises liability, negligence and negligent hiring, retention, training and supervision. Johnson seeks unspecified damages in the suit filed Oct. 10.

A USC spokeswoman issued a statement Monday regarding the lawsuit, which read, “We are aware of the lawsuit and will review it in detail.”

According to the suit, Johnson was a student at USC Marshall School of Business, working to obtain an MBA. She was required to take a number of elective units and enrolled in a course, “Fostering Creativity,” in which the professor, as part of the course curriculum, scheduled a group lesson at trapeze school, the suit alleges.

“The goal of this lesson was to help students find their edge and overcome their fears,” the suit states.

The professor did not say the trapeze lesson was optional, nor did he provide alternative activities that students could complete, according to the suit.

Johnson told the professor she was concerned about the school’s weight limit and whether she would be able to participate, but he replied, “You are in great shape, and the weight will not be an issue,” the suit states.

The professor knew that Johnson exceeded the 205-pound weight limit, but still encouraged her to participate, the suit states.

Johnson and other students visited the school for the group lesson in March. The trapeze instructor told them they would be wearing a harness attached to ropes and that the instructor would be guiding the ropes to ensure the students landed safely into the net, the suit states.

In the first exercise, the students were to hang upside down by their knees, the suit states. The instructors only demonstrated the exercise on the ground rather than on the trapeze and had the students practice with a wooden dowel, according to Johnson’s complaint.

Johnson was unable to do the first exercise on the ground, so she was taught a modified exercise in which she was to hang off the trapeze by her arms then fall on the net, the suit states.

“Plaintiff completed the first exercise, but was shaking and crying when coming off of the net,” according to the suit. The professor nonetheless told her she would continue with a second exercise that asked students to perform a backflip dismount in which they were to swing their legs forward, back, forward again and then tuck their legs and release to land in the net, the suit states.

During the second exercise, Johnson swung forward, then back, then forward again and tucked her legs and landed on the net after completing the backflip, but she felt one leg crumple beneath her, she could not stand and she saw blood pouring out of her leg, according to the suit.

USC owed Johnson an obligation to not expose her to unnecessary risk and to supervise and approve the curriculum of its professors, but she suffered severe physical and emotional injuries, incurred medical costs and experienced past and future lost earnings, the suit alleges.

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