Specialized fan conventions, or “cons,” have grown from a grassroots movement to a massive business. In modern times it’s a thriving industry that provides benefits for all involved. Fans of beloved pop cultural properties such as Star Wars enjoy the opportunity to spend time with like-minded people. The companies that make these properties enjoy a captive audience to advertise new projects. The cities that host these conventions benefit economically and culturally. But when dealing with large and occasionally rowdy crowds, a large burden is inevitably placed on the event organizers. Sometimes they do not rise to meet these challenges, even to the point of genuine negligence. A recent spate of injuries at Twitchcon in California is raising accusations of negligence. With these accusations comes another common legal question: can you sue if you’ve signed a waiver?
So let’s begin with the bare facts. Twitchcon is a fan and creator conference hosted in connection with livestreaming platform Twitch. Which has become very popular over the past decade with a variety of online creators and their audiences.
This year’s Twitchcon was hosted in San Diego, California and featured, among other attractions, a booth from tech manufacturer Lenovo. The centerpiece of the Lenovo booth was a pit of foam bricks surrounding a pair of raised platforms. As an attraction to draw people to their booth, Lenovo invited various Twitch personalities to take part in a contest. The objective of this contest was to knock your opponent off their platform and into the foam pit. This is where the trouble began.
The foam pit at Twitchcon was observed to be less than two feet deep, with a mat of some kind underneath the bricks and a concrete convention center floor beneath. According to USA Gymnastics, the industry-standard foam pit should be between four and 8 feet deep with an additional shock-absorbing material at the base. Even with the relatively reasonable height of the platforms, the illusion of safety provided by the foam pit made injuries inevitable. Several attendees were seriously injured before Lenovo shutdown the pit. Most notable among these was Adriana Chechik, who broke her back in two places after jumping into the pit. Chechik is a popular personality across multiple platforms with over 800,000 Twitch followers. So naturally news of her injury (and the accompanying raw video) spread fast.
Probably the most painful thing I’ve seen in awhile. Twitch streamer Adriana Chechik has confirmed broken her back in two separate places following this jump at TwitchCon pic.twitter.com/QdojGn5UtG
— Jake Lucky (@JakeSucky) October 9, 2022
After the incident gained traction on the internet, it did not take long for suggestions to roll in that the injured seek legal representation and file suit. Though it quickly came to light that the participants were required to sign waivers. Liability or release waivers are commonly employed by businesses to shield themselves from litigation in the event of an injury. But can you sue if you’ve signed a waiver? The answer is; you may be able to. Even if you’ve signed a waiver in advance you can still pursue legal action for an injury suffered due to the negligence of another party.
An important point to make here is that California’s personal injury laws are different from Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC’s. California operates under what is known as comparative negligence. This legal principle seeks to divide responsibility for the accident between the parties involved before determining damages based on how much the plaintiff was determined to be at fault. The states that comprise the DMV, by contrast, employ contributory negligence. This means that if the plaintiff is found to be even a small percentage at fault for their accident, they may be barred from recovering any damages at all.
Returning to the subject at hand; given the serious nature of the injuries, the public profile of the injured, the poorly conceived construction of the foam pit, and the apparent failure to close it down once its dangers became apparent, it seems that a convincing argument for negligence on the part of Lenovo and the Twitchcon organizers could be made. We can only hope that the various injured parties consult with personal injury attorneys in this jurisdiction. We hope as well that they become aware of their rights and determine the extent they may be entitled to compensation.
Malloy Law Offices is unfortunately familiar with the lengths to which large corporate or government entities will go to shield themselves from the consequences of their own negligence. But their profits don’t overrule your rights. We wish speedy and full recoveries to all the injured at Twitchcon. We also encourage them to explore all possible options for seeking compensation. Furthermore, if you’ve been the victim of a injury due to another party’s negligence, don’t hesitate to contact Malloy Law for a free consultation. Even if you’ve signed a waiver, you may be entitled to compensation.