BC woman who suffered severe burns from guitarist’s fire stunt awarded $202,000 – Summerland Review
A British Columbia woman has been awarded $202,200 in damages after she was badly burned by a performer who tried to light her guitar on fire at a Vancouver concert hall in 2011.
On May 14, 2011, plaintiff Celia Langston-Bergman and her boyfriend attended an indie rock performance by the band Boogie Monster in what BC Supreme Court Justice Harry Slade described as ” an old and somewhat dilapidated building” in Chinatown. There was an elevated stage at the venue, but Boogie Monster performed “in the round”, where attendees were gathered around performers in a nearby oval formation.
Langston-Bergman wore a leather dress, socks and boots leaving her legs exposed.
Boogie Monster took the stage around 10 p.m. and shortly after midnight guitarist Ben Fussell attempted to impersonate Jimi Hendrix by pouring flammable liquid on the guitar from a water bottle and setting it on fire. The stunt caused a “huge flame” which caused Fussell to panic, drop the bottle and pull it away from himself.
The flaming liquid spilled over to where Langston-Bergman was standing and, while on fire, splattered his legs. The flames were extinguished by onlookers and she was taken to hospital. She suffered severe burns to both legs, from the sock line to the lower thigh. The treatment for his burns was “excruciating” and included two skin grafts.
At the time, Langston-Bergman was enrolled in a BFA at Simon Fraser University with a major in contemporary dance. She had been a dancer since the age of six and practiced dancing extensively throughout her life. She was in her second year of her program when the accident happened.
Recovery took months. Langston-Bergman frequently had to dress his wounds, which caused him pain. His mobility was severely limited. Eventually, she was able to venture outside of her home, but her injuries prevented her from resuming her dance schedule.
After being forced to give up her dancing dreams, Langston-Bergman took a job as a bartender for $9 an hour plus tip. In 2013, she moved to Montreal to take a job in a restaurant as a commis chef for $12 an hour. Had she graduated from her program at SFU, Langston-Bergman likely would have become a dance teacher who pays an average of $25 an hour.
While in Montreal, Langston-Bergman refocused her career goals and became a registered nurse. She now earns more than if she had become a professional dancer, however, she is reluctant to work in the emergency room or intensive care because she does not want to treat burns.
Judge Slade found that Fussell was negligent in performing his dangerous stunt, as Fussell was warned by event promoter Tristan Orchard not to perform the stunt inside the venue. Orchard said if he wanted, Fussell could perform the stunt outside.
However, Slade also found that Orchard was negligent because despite his warning, Orchard failed to take adequate steps to ensure that Fussell would not set his guitar on fire. The buckets of water that had been placed around the stage for safety had not been removed. Slade said this amounted to proof that Fussell intended to carry out the stunt.
“Direct and visible supervision of Mr. Fussell during his performance was not assured. Despite the foreseeable risk of Mr. Fussell performing the stunt, the public was not prevented from getting close to Mr. Fussell. The standard has not been met. As a result, the stunt was performed, resulting in injury to the plaintiff. There was a breach of legal duty to ensure the safety of those attending the Boogie Monster performance and in particular the plaintiff,” Slade wrote.
Langston-Bergman was awarded $135.00 in non-pecuniary damages and $67,200 in lost past earnings. Slade ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support Langston-Bergman’s claims for loss of future earnings.
British Columbia Supreme Court