GRAND RAPIDS, MIch. (WOOD) - A Hope College student who was seriously injured after participating in an extreme sporting event in the summer of 2011 is now suing the event's organizers.
James Sa was injured in the popular 5k obstacle race near Flint last July when he jumped head first into a mud pit.
Michael Behm, Sa's attorney, filed the lawsuit on December 11th in Genesee County Circuit Court. The suit names Warrior Dash organizers, Red Frog Events, based out of Chicago. Sa and his attorney are suing the company for gross negligence resulting in permanent injury.
James Sa is paralyzed from the chest down. He suffered a spinal cord injury when he dove head first into the mud pit obstacle in 2011's Michigan Warrior Dash 5K in Mt. Morris .
As many as 25,000 people participated in the two day race held at the EA Cummings Center last July in Genesee County. The course consisted of 12 obstacles, including tunnels, jumping over fire, climbing a cargo wire and the mud pit.
Sa signed a waiver before the race, as did all participants, which stated that participants should not dive head first into the pit.
However, Sa's attorney takes issue with the way the waiver was presented.
"The waiver is a single spaced one page document with very small font," Michael Behm told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone.
Sa's attorney also claims a DJ stationed near the mud pit actually encouraged racers over a loud speaker to take dangerous risks - in direct conflict with what was stated in the waiver.
"And he would say things such as 'do something crazy, do something spectacular,' or he urged many people to simply - his words were 'dive into the mud pit'," Behm said.
Sa's attorney claims there was little to no signage on the course warning racers about the dangers of the pit, says he has significant video evidence of participants diving into it and sound of the DJ encouraging them to do so.
He also points to independent blogs written after the event that rank the mud pit dives according to the type of daring displayed.
While Sa's attorney didn't want to place a limit on the dollar amount sought in the suit, Behm says it's fair to say they're seeking in excess of 15 million dollars in total damages.
Kendra Alley, race director for Red Frog Events, emailed 24 Hour News 8 saying the company did not have a response at this time. In August 2011, race director Ryan Mortimer told 24 Hour News 8 the mud pit used in the race is about 3 feet deep in the front and 80 feet long and "participants are instructed to enter the mud pit normally, and not jump or dive and Mr. Sa had unfortunately dove into the mud pit which was the cause of the injury."
Despite his paralysis, James Sa has since earned his degree from Hope College.
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