“Cirque vs. Mark Brown”
By: Ricky Russo – Orlando, Florida (USA)
* * *
It’s unfortunate that we must cover yet another lawsuit against Cirque du Soleil. Yet this lawsuit was quite different from those we’ve reported on in the past. It wasn’t about trademark rights to the word “Cirque” or even about Discrimination, as in the 2003 case involving Matthew Cusick. This time Cirque du Soleil was dealing with a more fundamental problem: an injury – a catastrophic injury that had mostly incapacitated its victim. Who was he? What happened? Who was to blame? “Fascination!” reserves the right to hold its judgment; instead, we will present the facts of the case as detailed and let you decide who is at fault.
What are the facts in the case? Let’s start by answering the questions posed by the six most important interrogative words in the English language:
Who — Mark Brown, an electrician at the Bellagio.
What — A 14-foot, 1,000-pound, prop that looks similar to an alligator’s head suspended approximately 50-feet in the air fell upon the electrician, injuring him.
Where — Backstage at the “O” theater at the Bellagio; the show was not performing at the time.
When — The incident took place on Wednesday, January 30, 2002.
Why — The lawsuit was filed because Mr. Brown has sustained severe injuries, including, but not limited to complete paralysis of the lower torso and the loss of 25% of his skull.
How — No one is sure how the incident occurred. The original suit was filed in April of 2002.
What was Cirque Saying?
- Attorney: D. Lee Roberts
- Cirque placed the blame on the Bellagio (but the Bellagio was not named in the lawsuit).
- Cirque placed the blame on Brown, citing negligence on his part.
- They maintain the prop was hung (by Bellagio) from the ceiling using the wrong type cable.
- This cable had a tendency to spin, causing the rigging to unscrew.
- The Bellagio never inspected the rigging in over 194 weeks of use.
- They did provide technical schematics showing how rigging was done.
What was Brown saying?
- Attorney: James Crockett
- They said Cirque spent months designing the prop in Montreal but the rigging design took about a week.
- Guy Plante, the project manager, was a recent college engineering graduate who had never before worked on a show of this complexity.
- There was never a final inspection of the prop in Montreal.
- Cirque never told the Bellagio how to inspect the prop (which was to be done once a week).
- Only a screw “about the size of a baby’s tooth” held the prop.
The amount of money Brown was originally asking for was not originally disclosed. However, according to Brown’s lawyer as reported in the Las Vegas Sun, Brown needed approximately $10 million for medical bills and lost wages since the incident. At the time, both sources stated the proceedings were scheduled to last about three to four weeks.
Later, in a most surprising turn of events, Cirque du Soleil settled with Brown for an undisclosed sum just as the verdict was about to be delivered! The jurors had reached a verdict and a settlement amount, and were called back into court only to hear from the judge that a settlement had been reached in the case and their services (and verdict) were no longer needed.
Interviews with jurors later reported that, should the verdict have been handed down, jurors were looking to award almost $40 million to Brown. Cirque du Soleil has not admitted any wrong doing in the settlement, though some of the jurors were upset that all their time spent listening to the evidence and reaching a verdict was all for naught.
The Las Vegas Sun:
< http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/sun/2005/jun/30/518984276.htm >
< http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/sun/2005/aug/01/519138732.htm >
The Las-Vegas Review Journal:
< http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2005/Jul-02-Sat-2005/news/26818827.html >