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Renowned magician David Copperfield 'not responsible' for volunteer's injuries, state court jury rules

David Copperfield was found not liable late Tuesday in a civil case filed by a fan who said he was injured participating in the magician's Las Vegas act in 2013.
UPDATED FEB 24, 2020
David Copperfield (Getty Images)
David Copperfield (Getty Images)

David Copperfield has been exonerated by a jury from being responsible for injuries sustained by a British tourist who tripped and fell during one of the famous magician's vanishing acts for which he volunteered in Las Vegas.

Copperfield was facing a lawsuit filed by 57-year-old Gavin Cox who alleged that the magician, along with the MGM Grand hotel, was negligent when he fell during one of his acts in 2013, claiming that he suffered brain and body injuries. Others mentioned in the lawsuit were two Copperfield business entities and a construction firm that was renovating the hotel, reported ABC News.

The world's highest-paid magician claimed that he has performed the "Lucky#13" trick thousands of times without any problems. On Tuesday, the jury ruled that Cox was completely responsible for his own injuries in a complex verdict that the group reached after numerous weeks of testimony.

Jurors found the renowned magician, along with others named in Cox's lawsuit, to be negligent, but said that they were not liable for the injuries sustained by the volunteer.

The said verdict would mean Cox and his wife Minh-Hahn Cox cannot seek monetary compensation. According to the plaintiff, during an illusion that appeared to make 13 audience volunteers disappear onstage and appear sometime later, stagehands urged him and others to run to the back, waving flashlights to guide them.

During the closing arguments at the hearing, Benedict Morelli, the lawyer representing Cox, told jurors that Copperfield's trick was inherently dangerous and that he should be held partially responsible for the injuries sustained by his client. 

Cox had reportedly racked up more than  $400,000 in medical costs, attorneys estimated four years ago. On the other hand, Copperfield was forced to give the jury a play-by-play of how the magic trick unfolds after his lawyers lost a bid to close the courtroom to the public in order to prevent disclosure of secrets pertaining to the illusion.

According to Copperfield and his show's executive producer Chris Kenner, over 55,000 audience members had volunteered to take part in the illusion over 17 years.

During the hearing, it was made known to jurors that within a span of a minute and a half, stagehands ushered randomly chosen participants from the audience down passageways, past dark curtains around corners, indoors, outdoors and through an MGM Grand resort kitchen to re-enter the theater for the final act.

'I was having a good time up until the time I was injured,' Cox testified.

Lawyers told the jury that the outdoor alleyway through which the participants were ushered was coated with construction dust as stagehands yelled "Run! Run! Run!"

 Magician David Copperfield (L) and model Chloe Gosselin attend the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

However, according to the 57-year-old, he fell hard on his right side and couldn't get up to finish the illusion in November 2013.

He further claims that he had to receive immediate medical treatment at a hospital for shoulder and other injuries that he sustained. Cox and his wife filed an accident report to the theater accompanied by a lawyer two days later. He said doctors later diagnosed a brain lesion.

That being said, Copperfield claimed in his testimony that he never knew of anyone suffering injuries in his 20 years of performing the illusion on tour until Cox sued him and MGM Grand in August 2014. The magician said that he stopped performing the act since 2015.

He also clarified that there was no construction dust on the ground in the outdoor alley as he himself had passed through it whilst performing another illusion 10 minutes before the concerned trick.

Lawyers representing Cox were totally prepared to win the case, bringing along three women who testified that they were also injured during the same illusion over the years. One of them was a school teacher from Michigan who claimed she got a bloody knee about five months before Cox's fall when she fell during one of the magician's performances.

"We are obviously very happy with the jury's verdict," Elaine Fresch, Copperfield's attorney, said. "This was a long trial and we felt the jury remained attentive throughout and we respect the work the jury did."

"In addition to the facts and evidence presented during the trial, in the courtroom, Mr. Cox needed assistance to walk from his wife, his sons, and even his attorney," Fresch said. "We showed surveillance videos to the jury from the last two years wherein Mr. Cox was caught on tape, able to walk on his own, needing no assistance. We felt that the videos of Mr. Cox walking unassisted outside of court were important. After these were shown to the jury during trial and in closing arguments, Mr. Cox no longer needed assistance."

An attorney for the MGM Grand Hotel said they were "thrilled" with the verdict reached by the state jury.