British tourist Gavin Cox, 58, filed a negligence lawsuit against Copperfield and the MGM Grand Hotel after he participated in Lucky 13 at a November 2013 Las Vegas performance by the magician. In order to explain himself and his actions, Copperfield, 61, had no choice but to go into detail about his trick.
Cox claimed that he was injured during the trick, suffering a dislocated shoulder. Since the alleged incident, he says he’s had to endure chronic pain, three surgeries and side effects of a brain injury. He said that he has spent over US$400,000 on medical bills.
“During the trick, Plaintiff was injured, when he was hurried with no guidance or instruction through a dark area under construction with cement dust and debris causing him to slip and fall,” the complaint filed in 2014 said. (You can see the legal documents, above.)
When The Daily Mail spoke to him in 2016, Cox, who has not worked since the accident, said: “It’s turned my life upside-down. I have pretty much constant pain, and my difficulty is my short-term memory.”
He added: “I have a ventilator. Otherwise, I stop breathing at night.”
Lucky 13, which Copperfield said he’s performed thousands of times without any incident, involves making 13 audience members — chosen at random — disappear from the stage. The trick’s climax occurs when Copperfield reveals all 13 people at the back of the auditorium.
Here’s the trick, recorded by an anonymous attendee:
During the trial Tuesday, Copperfield’s executive producer, Chris Kenner, revealed the trick’s mechanics. (Don’t read on if you don’t want to know!)
After the curtains come down on stage, hiding the movements of the 13 participants, assistants hurry them through passageways that run around the large resort. They physically leave the building, then return to the theatre by coming through the back entryway.
Copperfield isn’t directly involved in the movement of participants.
Cox’s lawyer, Benedict Morelli, questioned Copperfield at trial, asking him whether the alleged incident was his fault.
“It would depend on what happened,” the illusionist replied. “If I did something wrong, it would be my fault.”
He also added that he’d personally walked that same pathway earlier, and said the dust and debris Cox complains about wasn’t present. MGM supported this claim, saying that the passageways were clear; the hotel believes that Cox didn’t slip, but instead “tripped,” according to MGM lawyer Jerry Popovich.
Copperfield is the highest-paid magician in the world, according to Forbes.
— With files from Katie Scott