SEATTLE (CN) – An MBA student sued Seattle University and Teams and Leaders Inc. for a required leadership class in which his classmates failed to catch him in a “trust-fall” from a bleachers and his head hit the ground, damaging his brain.
The injuries forced Shawn Bomgardner to drop out of school and quit his job as an auditor for Costco, he claims in King County Court.
The accident happened during an MBA 510 class known as “Leadership and Team Development” designed by Teams and Leaders.
“In November 2009, defendant Seattle University’s MBA 510 class was required to attend a leadership retreat at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington. Like the other students enrolled in this class, Shawn was expected to attend and participate in the retreat activities,” the complaint states.
“The specific activities selected by defendant Seattle University and defendant Teams and Leaders included rope climbing and wall climbing, cat-and-mouse tag games and ‘trust fall’ exercises. The trust fall exercise involved asking one student to blindly fall backwards into the outstretched arms of his/her classmates.
“Throughout the day of the retreat, the weather was overcast and rainy. The grounds of Bastyr University were wet and slippery. Near the end of the retreat’s activities, Shawn’s course instructor, Mr. Weis, directed that he ascend a set of bleachers abutting a baseball field at Bastyr University. The highest point of the bleachers was at least four feet off of the ground. Shawn was instructed to stand on the highest portion of the bleachers. Shawn was then instructed to fall backwards, blindly, into the arms of his fellow students. Mr. Weis assured Shawn that this exercise had been performed on countless prior occasions, without incident. Shawn complied with Mr. Weis’ directions.
“Shawn climbed to the top of the bleachers. He turned his body away from his fellow students standing on the ground below him. As he had been instructed to do, Shawn tucked his arms into his chest and fell backwards off of the top of the bleachers. Shawn’s classmates were unable to catch Shawn and stop his fall. Shawn’s head struck the ground,” according to the complaint.
Bomgardner says he was “severely disoriented,” and that organizers did not call an ambulance, but simply excused him from further activities while he “attempted to recover.” That night he drove himself to the emergency room and was diagnosed with a closed-head injury.
“Shawn was diagnosed with a concussion and cervical strain related to his fall during the leadership retreat. In the months that followed, Shawn continued to suffer from the symptoms associated with his injuries. Shawn was unable to continue his course work required by defendant Seattle University’s MBA program. Consequently, Shawn withdrew from the program before he had completed his studies.
“In addition, Shawn’s performance at work suffered due to the symptoms associated with his fall. Consequently, Shawn’s work performance diminished after suffering his fall,” the complaint states.
Bomgardner says he was treated by the University of Washington Brain Injury Clinic for a traumatic brain injury and quit his job at Costco “due to the persistence of the symptoms associated with his injuries.”
Bomgardner’s wife, Becky, says she had to take time off work to “undertake additional responsibilities as a result of Shawn’s continued deficits, persistent depressive symptoms and diminished cognitive functioning.”
“Shawn’s injuries have caused loss of enjoyment of life and have impacted his relationship with Becky and his daughter. While Shawn’s symptoms have improved over time, he continues to experience the effects of his injuries,” according to the complaint.
Bomgardner wants special and general damages from Seattle University and Teams and Leaders for instructing him to participate in “an inherently dangerous activity.”
The Bomgardners are represented by Anthony Shapiro with Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro.