(CN) – A Virginia man says in court that he became paralyzed after diving into a muddy pool before the finish line of an obstacle course sponsored by the Road Runners Club.
Held at Brown’s Island in Richmond, Va., on May 14, 2010, the Filthy 5K Mud Run was a 5 km race across several muddy pools and other obstacles, according to the complaint.
The Road Runners Club of American sponsored the race with Venture Richmond and Metropolitan Richmond Sports Backers.
Robert Alfred Fecteau II says he ran the race as the proxy for a friend who registered but could not make it. To reach the finish line, Fecteau had one last muddy pool to cross. was approaching the finish line, according to the lawsuit in Richmond Circuit Court.
But Fecteau says the pool had concealed defects, including an extremely shallow depth and a hard, irregular and abrasive bottom, obscured by cloudy water and lacked any warnings of the conditions.
Flag-decorated ropes that hung 18 to 24 inches over the water further encouraged race participants to “go or be down very low and to move, lean and lurch forward in an awkward and forward-leaning manner … at the same time they were moving as fast as possible and at a time when race participants, including Fecteau, were or were likely to be fatigued, jostling and bumping about, slipping, sliding, stumbling … disoriented, with reduced strength, visual acuity, motor control and coordination,” according to the complaint.
Race workers known as “spotters” also allegedly gave the false impression that they were monitoring the race’s safety, the lawsuit say.
Fecteau says the spotters shouted expressions to race participants such as “Hit it,” “Make a big splash,” and “Dive, dive dive.”
Fecteau says he followed these directions, and the lead of race participants ahead of him, and “moved towards and into the final muddy pool in a manner such that his outstretched hands went forward into or toward the muddy pool ahead of him, with Fecteau’s hands and arms extending out ahead of him to brace, support and carry the weight of his body as he went forward into the muddy pool,” according to the complaint.
But Fecteau says the shoddily designed pool brought him down unexpectedly, “and his hands and arms went down onto the shallow, unyielding, and irregular bottom of the muddy pool, and as a result his hands and arms were suddenly and inadvertently jammed, jarred, collapsed, and/or failed to sufficiently hold or support him and his chin and/or head struck on the hard, unyielding, and shallow bottom of the muddy pool, thereby causing damage to his spinal cord, paralysis and permanent injuries to his C4, C5 and C6 vertebrae.”
Fectau claims race supervisor John Raigins unreasonably delayed responding to Fecteau, who was left “to lie injured and incapacitated for an unreasonable amount of time face down in muddy water.”
When other runners and bystanders tried to move the obviously incapacitated Fecteau, they did so “by pulling or jerking on his arm without stabilizing or securing [his] neck and back,” according to the complaint.
He seeks $30 million from the race organizers, Raigins and Sports Backers executive director Jon Lugbill for gross negligence, failure to warn and nuisance regarding the course’s design.
Fecteau is represented by John Shea of Marks & Harrison and Stephen Cochran of Roeder, Cochran & Haight in McLean.