Shawn Bomgardner, a Costco internal auditing manager and MBA student at Seattle University, filed a lawsuit last week against Seattle University for requiring him to participate in a game in which one individual supposedly trusts other individuals enough to blindly fall backwards into their outstretched arms.
In his course of study at Seattle University, Bomgardner enrolled in a class that required him to attend a leadership retreat where he was expected to participate in retreat activities with other classmates. During the retreat, Bomgardner and others participated in rope climbing, wall climbing, cat-and-mouse tag games and "trust fall" exercises. According to the suit, "trust fall" exercises involve asking one student to blindly fall backwards into the outstretched arms of his/her classmates. Near the end of the exercises, an instructor directed Bomgardner to climb to the highest point of a set of bleachers, at least four feet off the ground, and fall backwards off the bleachers into his classmates outstretched arms. The instructor advised that the exercise has been completed on countless prior occasions without incident. Bomgardner followed the instructors instructions, tucked his arms into his chest, and fell backwards off of the bleachers. Upon falling off of the bleachers, Bomgardner's classmates failed to catch him and his head struck the ground. He became extremely disoriented and was excused from participating in further activities. However, no one employed by the University, or employed by the company implementing the training program, contacted emergency medical personnel.
At the conclusion of the day's activities, Bomgardner drove himself to the emergency room where he was diagnosed with a closed head injury, concussion and cervical strain related to the fall. He was later diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and accepted as a patient by the University of Washington Brain Injury Clinic. Whereas prior to the incident, Bomgardner excelled at Costco and within the MBA program, the injury left him unable to complete his course of study and forced him to leave his employment with Costco. In addition, the suit alleges that he continues to experience persistent depressive symptoms and diminished cognitive functioning. For more information, please see Shawn Bomgardner, et ux. v. Seattle University, et al., 11-2-29229-1SEA, Superior Court of Washington in and for King County.