Titans’ Stafon Johnson suing USC over weightlifting injury

Stafon Johnson, the running back who had his rookie season with the Titans derailed by a leg injury after having his senior season at USC derailed by a weightlifting injury, is suing his former school.

Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times reports that Johnson’s attorney has called a press conference for Monday to announce the filing of a personal injury lawsuit against USC.

In September of 2009, Johnson dropped a barbell on himself while bench pressing in USC’s weight room, causing serious injuries to his throat that ended his football season and forced him to be hospitalized for three weeks.

After going undrafted, Johnson signed with the Titans only to suffer an ugly ankle dislocation in a preseason game, ending his rookie year in August.

48 responses to “Titans’ Stafon Johnson suing USC over weightlifting injury

  1. Ummmm, yeah, good luck with that. I’m sure you’ll rake in millions… they made me drop the barbell on myself…

    On the plus side, NFL teams love players that are willing to sue their teams.

    (End sarcasm, for anyone that wasn’t sure)

  2. Clearly USC was at fault. All athletes wanting to use the bench press should have to pass a test. If the athletes can’t explain that the correct way to hold the bar is to place it in the palms of the hands and wrap the fingers around the bar, then they don’t pass the test.

  3. People are far too willing to sue and many lawyers in search of big bucks are far too eager to help. USC did not drop the barbell, he did. This seems to have no more merit than that stupid woman suing the mall because she was walking and texting and ultimately tripped and fell into a 30′ fountain with a low wall (without injury). His injury was tragic and may have impacted his earning capacity in the NFL but he is responsible for his own actions. I am not saying that he does not have a case in the alternate reality of legal tort, but he shouldn’t. Should I be able to blame the keyboard manufacturer or Hewlit Packard for my typos? There seems to be very little shame and even less personal responsibility these days.

  4. It’s terrible what happened to this guy. Seems like a really good kid with tons of potential before this happened…..BUT JEEZ!!! You were lifting weights. By definition, they are heavy. Next thing you know, someone will be suing McDonalds for serving coffee that’s too hot.

  5. Maybe if more details become available, my opinion will change, but I think this is kind of crappy. I understand that the injury probably hurt his playing potential, and subsequently his earning potential in the NFL. I feel terrible for him that it worked out that way. But how on Earth is the school responsible? Unless the equipment was faulty, it was just an accident that only he could have prevented. Just seems like another case of someone trying to make money off their own mistakes.

  6. actually Mc’donalds did have to pay out a large sum of money because their coffee was too hot and didn’t have a caution label…..just sayin

  7. Just like the “lady” who is suing the mall she was in, because while texting and walking, she fell into a coin pond the size of Texas.

    Where will it end?

  8. Johnson was sidelined for nearly all of the 2009 season after suffering what doctors described as near-fatal injuries when a weightlifting bar carrying 275 pounds fell on his neck during a workout on campus on Sept. 28, 2009. It is going to come down to whether USC was following safe procedures with spotters. Sure sounds like a spotting issue, therefore the school could be held accountable.

  9. I find it really unsettling that so many of you are wishing harm on a young man who almost lost his life trying to stay in shape to PERFORM (because that’s what athletes do) for a multimillion dollar institution (sound familiar? hint 400 years of American history) If you followed this young man’s story, you know that he has not once tried to bad-mouth or defile USC’s name. For so many of you to wish bad on him and not even know what really is going on, it makes you all look even worse than you think he looks for trying to make sure he is compensated for almost LOSING HIS LIFE! You don’t know the complications he has to endure because of it! While attending any institution, you are under THEIR supervision. He could have been in lab and had his skin burned- it would still be USC’s fault! For non USC students commenting-SHUT UP! You don’t attend the school so you have no idea what the politics are behind it. Even further, for non-student athletes, you have no idea what these young men and women go through to make their schools look good and thrive based off of their performance. And whose to say if it were you, you wouldn’t do the same thing? Why does it even upset any of you what HE does with USC? Is USC paying your bills? Feeding your family? I doubt it. Even if you work there, you are still going to get your check so mind your own business and leave this young man alone. Have you all who are saying “USC TRIED TO TAKE THE BEST CARE OF HIM THEY COULD” ever thought that if that were the case he would not be suing? Or do you all think that all black people are trying to get money? Think about it. If this were a white quarterback no one would be saying anything. It’s not even about the money-it’s about responsibility. And if any of you work out, you would know that NO ONE bench presses without a spotter. For you all who sit and just watch football players, maybe you don’t know. Get in the gym and find out for yourself. He was doing his JOB and there was an accident. The logistics and whose to blame is to be decided in court, not among you NFL wanna-be’s and high school drop outs. For the rest of you who are professional, act like it. And have some decency because regardless of the situation, to wish DEATH on another human being who is a father, a son, a brother, a cousin, a nephew and friends to so many people, is just inhumane. READ YOUR BIBLE PEOPLE! Think about his family. USC is not hurting for any money (look at anyone’s tuition bill) and their feelings are more hurt about being sanctioned than almost killing one of their best players for that season. Is that right? Or just look into your own child’s eyes, and think about him or her having an accident and no one wanting to take responsibility for it. Who are you to feel above anyone else and deem him greedy for money or evil? Do you know him? Have you seen his bank account? You don’t know what he needs and doesn’t need. Keep your evil comments comments to yourself and remember what goes around, comes around, ten-fold.

    Thank You,

    Have a nice life!

  10. @upperdecker19

    Regarding the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit; The lady who filed suit was 79 years old. She suffered third degree burns over 6% of her body which required skin grafts (since she spilled the coffee in her lap, I’ll let you guess what body parts needed the grafts) and second degree burns over another 16%. She spent over a week in the hospital and lost 20% of her body weight. Her initial request to McDonald’s was for $20,000. At that time, she had over $10,000 in actual medical costs, estimated additional medical costs of about $3,000, and over $5,000 in lost earnings. McDonald’s countered with an offer of $800 total. When the case went to trial, McDonald’s testified that the injuries were an isolated incident and their severity could not have been predicted. The plantiffs attorneys established that; First, McDonald’s required their franchises to serve coffee at a temperature that was 36% hotter than what the average home drip maker produced. Second, McDonald’s had received over 700 complaints with similar injuries. Third, several hospitals, including Scottish Rite, had tried on multiple occasions to get McDonald’s to reduce the heat at which they served coffee. Given the lies that McDonald’s testified to, the finding for the plantiff was a slam dunk. The intial award was about one day’s coffee sales for McDonald’s although it was reduced significantly by the judge. McDonald’s agreed to an undisclosed settlement before the appeals process ran it’s course. McDonald’s should have done the right thing to begin with. They would haved saved hundreds of thousands of dollars simply by being honorable.

  11. When you enter a weight room at a school or play a sport you usually sign a waiver that basically says anything that happens to you is not the fault of the school.

  12. …sounds like somebody wasnt as strong as he thought he was…good to see he swallowed the pride, admitted a mistake, and moved on…

  13. rhfast says:
    Jan 21, 2011 7:12 PM
    It is going to come down to whether USC was following safe procedures with spotters. Sure sounds like a spotting issue, therefore the school could be held accountable.
    I agree with that to a point…it does sound like a “spotting” issue. The problem, to me is still the same. I would be shocked if the school does not have some form of policy requiring spotters, but the bottom line is, if he was lifting without a spotter then HE was knowingly violating the safety rules, not the school. In a reasonable world that should remove any blame from the school, but the legal world is far from reasonable. I think it is a tragic shame, but I can’t see how USC would be responsible.

  14. Unless there’s something I’m missing, I don’t see how USC is culpable here. I’ve worked in gyms before, and no one forces you to lift any weights unless you’re in a Sylvester Stallone prison movie. If he chose not to have a spotter, then that was his decision.

    It’s a sad story. I want to root for the guy, but on the surface, this just looks like a money grab. Maybe something else will come out and justify this decision.

  15. I thought this kid was a high character guy and his efforts in getting back on the field were a motivational story, but this does not seem like a respectable move.

  16. Like it or not, he has a case. Neglegence and the schools part. They failed to protect him. Where was the spotter.

    They probably have to sign injury waivers but this didn’t happen on the feild.

    I bet USC settles.

  17. With a career as a professional football player looking less likely, Staf decides to become a professional litigant.

  18. If you are blaming Stafon Johnson, then you are also blaming the kid from Notre Dame that died this past year. Both knew better, but the school did not ensure their safety.

    Those universities were not following proper safety protocols…and USC should expect to pay up. Whether Johnson wins, or it comes to a settlement, USC will be cutting him a check.

  19. Couldn’t make the big bucks in the NFL. Daddy gotta get paid somehow.

    Total BS! That’s the problem nowadays, it’s always everyone elses fault except your own. Loser.

  20. Hey stafon I mean cowboys2411 I couldn’t agree with you more that bench should of had a warning label on it that said warning must use spotter and the bar should of had a warning that said must wear gloves. Race has nothing to do with it you idiot crawl back in your hole cowgirl dallas and you suck at life!

  21. Caught myself thinking about this fellow and his lawsuit and relative IQ’s and motivations and legal advice and mentors and “new” friends and can only believe that this moron has spent his year supposedly rehabbing his ankle while at the same time spending evenings in some local tavern hearing the various merits of suing “the man” after swilling 11 beers and being told “you are getting screwed”.

    Morons one and all. The biggest hurdle was probably finding an attorney that was stupid enough to take it on a contingency.

  22. cowboys2411 says: Jan 21, 2011 7:31 PM


    you need to get laid more

  23. cowboys2411:
    Sorry, but I just can’t let your stupidity go unchallenged.

    1) I don’t see anywhere on this thread where somebody wished any kind of ill will towards this kid…maybe it was deleted. Most of the comments are about the stupidity behind the suit and the lack of responsibility placed on the individual that had the “accident”

    2) Stop bringing up race where it doesn’t belong so you can somehow lend creedence to your pathateic rant…it makes you look like a racist.

    3) You are a hypocrite. Having any affiliation with USC or this player is irrelevent. You likely have no affiliation yet you felt compelled to make that assinine post.

    4) Telling people to “READ YOUR BIBLE PEOPLE!” is another dumb comment. You assume that your religion is the only one that matters and everybody else should conform to your narrowminded viewpoint and that mentality is prevalent throughout your diatribe.

    5) What these student athletes go through to make their schools money is no more relevant to the personal fortune some of them achieve through their “free” education or through their professional sports career that would likely not exist except for the publicity/exposure provided through the school’s participation in the sport.

    6) You sound like you are either a tort lawyer who makes a living on trivial suits like this or you are one of those people who blame everybody else for their own actions and then try to profit from it because the other side has some money. Based on your comments about USC having money and nobody knows the financial situation of the player…my guess is the latter. Show some personal responsibility.

    7) The rest of your diatribe is incoherent.

    8) Change the dosage on your meds

    9) Please stop posting

  24. Jeez…the McDonald’s analogy was sarcasm…

    Point being, where does the liability for anyone offering a product, service and/or facility end?

    I hate that the kid got hurt. Hate that the lady got burned by coffee. But how the heck is that the entity that supplied the product, service, etc.’s fault?

  25. @cowboys2411……..

    Mix in a paragraph or two every,ohhhhh…….20 lines of jibberish.

    All I read ( i’m sure i’m not alone ) is blah blah blah blah blah………………

  26. Do college athletic programs pay for medical bills for students athletes who are injured playing their sport? (serious question, by the way)

    IF they do, then his injuries while lifting weights in their facility would fall under his athletic obligations to the school. If the school had an obligation to cover medical expenses for injuries suffered while fulfilling the requirements of his scholarship than they would be obligated to cover his injury in the weight room, as well. If they didn’t cover those medical bills, then he would have a valid reason to file a lawsuit and pursue reimbursement.

    Now, I have no idea if that’s the case or if he’s just being greedy because he didn’t get the first-round draft status he wanted due to the injury. Perhaps he’s going for “lost potential income” reimbursement. But I can see the aforementioned reasoning of medical bills being a good reason. Guess we’ll have to wait-and-see what is said in the press conference.

  27. @cowboys2411.

    what a racist piece of crap you are!!

    it’s usc’s fault the dud could not lift the bar without nearly killing himself!

    where did anyone on this site wish him harm???

    where was his spotter at you fool? did you ever think of that?….USC is NOT required to provide a spotter you MORON.

    signs would be uselees because the poor kid likely only knows football.

    maybe someone could give him some money to go get a real education because USC obviously did not provide it..99.9% of weightlifters would be smart enough to have a spotter…this kid did not….maybe USC tried to teach him but he just doesn’t get it.

    SO, because they didn’t make sure that he was smart enough to understand how to weightlift without killing himself, it’s their fault, right??




  28. @upperdeck19

    “But how the heck is that the entity that supplied the product, service, etc.’s fault?”

    It becomes the fault of the entity that supplied the product or service if they should become aware of a potentially serious danger and chose to ignore it. If they have several hundred complaints involving injury, they should be aware. If respected medical professionals are advising a different course of action, they should take heed. If they should chose to do nothing and then decide to lie about their awareness under oath, it will end up costing them thousands and thousands of dollars.

    I do believe that a substantial portion of the population knows that they could be seriously injured if they were to drop a heavy barbell on themselves. The actions of weight training have inherrent dangers. I would imagine that a much, much smaller portion of the population can imagine having to get skin grafts on their genitals just because they spilled a small cup of coffee.

    I understand that part of your initial post was sarcastic. The coffee lawsuit is often mentioned by those favoring tort reform. I do believe that many who reference the case do not fully understand the severity of the plantiff’s injuries or the actions taken by the respondent. Having sat on juries for civil trials, I have a great deal of faith in the jury system and believe that given all the facts, the vast majority of us can distinguish between truth and BS.

  29. As a USC football fan this is difficult. I felt the pain Stefon had and sympathized. I was so proud the day he stood up and made his intention known to enter the draft and do what he had to to make it in the NFL. My heart goes out to him and my hopes for an NFL career for him are still there. But I see no validity in this lawsuit. Stefon has to take some responsibility upon himself, being an experienced athlete that has trained hard for years. It was just a freak accident. Imagine if everyone that got hurt in a gym sued that gym- everyone would be on their own and no gyms would exist.

    I wish the best for Stefon, but this lawsuit is not the way to achieve it.

  30. If my memory serves correctly, he did have a spotter. An assistant coach for the team was in the room with the players lifting. He was there to serve as a spotter. When Stefon was lifting, he turned away to talk to others in the room. He was the one who removed the barbell from his neck after the accident. It was his job to spot these students. He works for the university. So I would say that Stefon has a case after all.

  31. I am an accomplished competitive powerlifter, with many years spent under barbells heavier than the weight that nearly killed Stafon Johnson. Without knowing exactly what occurred regarding this accident, it seems that the root cause is probably Mr. Johnson himself.

    This was most likely a technique issue…I suspect that he was either using a thumbless “suicide” grip, he may have used a couple of small pre-decent pumps (prevalent with athletes), or perhaps he lost the groove and the bar came back toward his face. Of course, a combination of these or other factors could have contributed.

    The bar does not simply fall out of one’s hands. I have heard no mention of a catastrophic injury (pec tear or similar) that led to Mr. Johnson dropping the weight.

    During a heavy bench press, you are by definition risking your life. The spotter is there to help you if you cannot complete a lift – not to catch the barbell (there are not many people that can upright row 275). I recall reading that a spotter was present, but with or without a spotter, a free falling barbell will 100% cause an injury.

  32. For the record, I don’t think Johnson should be doing this. If he was lifting without a spotter, he should be man enough to accept responsibility for the consequences of his actions.

    From the legal side, he may very well have a case. Most University weight rooms are staffed by student employees paid by the school to oversee activities and enforce rules.

    Assuming these personnel were present, and assuming lifting heavy weight without a spotter violated posted rules, there is possible negligence on the part of the University employee for not stopping him from doing so.

    Again, I don’t support Johnson’s decision, but if you think it’s a slam dunk case that the University has no liability here, there’s a good chance you’re wrong.

  33. Some good points have been made about how this suit may have merit after all:

    1. He is probably required by the school to participate in the weight lifting program if he wants to keep his spot on the team. Which means he had essentially no choice about lifting.

    2. There may have been ONE spotter for the whole room. How is that safe? It is reasonably foreseeable (a favorite term of the law to find liability) that more than one athlete might need assistance at the same time.

    3. If there was no spotter, the school may have known that athletes were lifting without spotters and condoned the practice. A safety policy only protects you from liability if you follow it and/or do not condone repeated violations of it.

    Like the McDonald’s analogy, if the school required the students to lift weights but did not provide a safe environment for them to do so, they could be liable for any injuries which are caused during the weight lifting sessions.

  34. It is clearly USC’s fault for recruiting such a weak and untalented athlete. I think when he did finally get around to doing the bench for scouts, he did it 13X while weighing in at 214 lbs. Pathetic!

  35. livenbreathefootball:

    There was one spotter for the entire room? Was he working out alone? That’s his own stupid fault. Besides that he was using kid’s weight that he dropped on his neck, besides that, whenever somebody usually gets stuck on a weight they get it stuck on their chest, not drop it on their face. This guy’s stupid and WEAK!

  36. I can tell who all the pencil necks are that have never actually been in a weight room. “Where was the spotter?” Ummmm, morons, it’s a gym, the guy standing next to you is your spotter… gyms don’t hire spotters, you ask somebody you know to do it for you.

  37. A spotter is not really necessary for bench press or any exercise unless you are going to failure. In that case you(the person lifting) should make sure you have spotter. The people who use spotters at all times are weak nerds who lift weights more than they should and cause their “spotter” to actually to more work than they do. All that being said he had a spotter. His spotter was the guy pulling the barbell off his neck. No spotter is going to be able to stop a 275 pound barbell from full extension. This kid obviously never took lifting seriously and paid for it. I can guarantee he will not be f’in off in the weight room anymore. If only this would happen to all the New Years resolution people who flock to my gym only to leave fatter and weaker by March.

  38. 1st, he’s was about to be a profootball player. He had no business dropping 275 on himself. 275 is warmup rep weight and any of them should be able to rep that 15+ times without a spotter. If he dropped it, it’s because he missed the catches. If he missed the catches, it’s because he wasn’t careful putting the weight back himself.

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