YouTuber David Dobrik Sued for $10M Over Jeff Wittek Injury Claim
How Was Jeff Wittek Injured?
In June of 2020, Jeff Wittek, a member of David Dobrik’s crew “the Vlog Squad” was injured in a stunt gone wrong. People magazine reported that Mr. Wittek suffered serious injuries including “a broken skull, facial fractures and eye damage after being swung on a rope tied to an excavator while filming a video.” It was further reported that “Dobrik had been operating the construction equipment at the time, and footage from the moment was later posted on YouTube in April 2021. (The clip has since been deleted.)” The lawsuit alleges that Dobrik was negligent in operating the equipment at a dangerous speed and acted negligently in slowing the machine down suddenly which caused the injuries to occur after Wittek collided with the equipment while swinging. The incident resulted in serious injuries to Jeff Wittek. He reportedly posted updates to his medical care to social media websites. People magazine reported that he had endured as many as nine surgeries as a result of the injuries sustained.
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Did Wittek Assume the Risk of Injury By Agreeing to Vlog Squad Stunts?
Injury lawsuits similar to the suit filed by Mr. Wittek against Mr. Dobrik involves a concept referred to as “assumption of the risk.” This concept, part of injury law, stands for the proposition that if someone is injured and it can be proven that they knowingly and willingly took on the risk of such injury by engaging in such activity, they may not be able to recover for that injury depending on the state law where the injury occurred and the facts of the case. So did Jeff Wittek assume the risk of this injury by agreeing to be in David Dobrik’s videos and engage in stunts the day of his injuries?
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Does Worker’s Compensation Apply to Wittek’s Injuries?
Another legal argument which can be raised relates to his legal status with David Dobrik. Was Mr. Wittek employed by Mr. Dobrik at the time of the incident? If so, then state worker’s compensation laws may apply. These laws may be the exclusive remedy for Mr. Wittek. He can only recover partial wage loss and medical bills. At some point, he could settle the worker’s compensation claim. In some states, Mr. Wittek would be able to recover additional compensation if he could show that Mr. Dobrik’s actions intentionally created a substantial certainty of injury. This intentional tort claim goes beyond worker compensation benefits and was included in the lawsuit. It has a very high burden of proof and is very fact specific. For example, the slowing down of the excavator reducing the velocity could have created a very dangerous condition resulting in substantial certainty that Mr. Vitek would crash into the machine causing the injuries. Any recovery under this claim, may require Mr. Wittek to reimburse worker’s compensation for any funds it paid out to him. If however, he were an independent contractor, then common law negligence as well as the assumption of the risk as outlined above would apply.
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Negligence Per Se and Safety Statutes
There are also federal, state, and local statutes and ordinances that may have been violated. Unless Mr. Dobrik had the required permits to operate the excavator, then he could be fined. In some states, a violation of these laws may create a breach of the duty of care that Mr. Dobrik owed Mr. Wittek. This is often referred to as “negligence per se” or a violation of a so-called safety statute (one designed exactly to protect against the injured sustain here). This can make the negligence lawsuit much more streamlined and aid the Plaintiff in establishing some early aspects of the case as a matter of law.
About the Authors: Sawan & Sawan is a multi-generational, family owned law firm practicing law in the areas of car accidents, truck accidents, insurance claims, personal injury, litigation and more. Our firm practices law in Ohio (Toledo, Columbus), Georgia, Michigan and Florida.
Dennis P. Sawan
Licensed in Ohio and Georgia
Christopher A. Sawan
Licensed in Ohio and Michigan