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NYC yoga teacher Hilaria Thomas, aka Mrs. Alec Baldwin, has been sued by a student for negligence. This ABC News story provides all the bloody details…and I do mean bloody. The student was apparently dismounting from a headstand and accidentally kicked his leg through a window.

The suit alleges the room was too crowded and the student had no choice but to be too close to the window. Alec Baldwin took to Twitter to defend his wife, saying there were “only” 42 students in a studio with room for 70. The student’s lawyer says his ankle is barely functional and sustained serious injury to the calf.

OK. Where to start in analyzing this whole ball of wax. First of all, as a teacher, it is my worst nightmare that a student injures themselves in my class, so let me just put that out there right now. Second, I think this raises the very important issue of responsibility. Specifically:

  1. Can one teacher–one human being–carefully watch 42 students at a time? (Let alone 70 students?!) Can one person watch all those bodies as they go into any pose–let alone an advanced inversion–and make sure that nobody is in danger? What should teachers responsibly do in this situation?
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  3. Does the responsibility for students’ safely rest with the teacher or the individual students? Is the responsibility shared?
  4. Is it responsible for a teacher to teach headstand in a class that large?
  5. Are students responsible for surveying the lay of the land, noting that there is a glass window next to them, and making the decision to move, take a time out, or call the teacher over for advice?
  6. Ultimately, are we each responsible for our own safety (e.g. “I am the boss of my own body and I only do what I know I can do safely?”) OR when you take a class, do you place yourself into the (hopefully safety-oriented, well-trained) teacher’s hands with the understanding that you are paying them to keep you safe and guide your yoga practice?

These are thorny issues. Would love to know what others think.

Comments to "Yoga Teacher Hilaria Thomas Sued by Injured Student"

  1. Chris Daniels

    June 27, 2013

    As a paralegal student, I am interested in this and I may try to research this case, assuming it wasn’t thrown out. From a non-legal common sense point of view, I think it is very definitely the student’s own responsibility. In legal theory there exists a Doctrine of Reasonable Expectations which says the provisions of a contract are to be interpreted according to what a reasonable person (who is not trained in the law) would interpret them.
    As far as more typical yoga-related injuries, I think that reasonable person should expect the possibility of minor injuries from practicing yoga, simply because of the nature of any physical activity that challenges the human body. In the yoga studio I go to, teachers constantly tell us to pay attention to our own bodies messages, and not pushing too hard or trying to compete with others in the class. Of course, I think there are times when it is OK to take calculated risks and push your limits a bit.

    • Sara

      July 7, 2013

      Hi Chris!
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts (and apologies it took so long to reply–I’ve been traveling). If you do research the case, please keep us posted. Would love to see what you come up with. I personally think that it falls within “reasonable expectations” not to kick up into a headstand near a window…but I will be very interested to see what the courts decide (if it doesn’t get thrown out).

      I hear what you are saying in terms of it being reasonable to expect the possibility of minor injuries in that there is innate physical movement, but my inner teacher cringes to think of anyone getting injured–no matter how minor–in one of my classes (please NO!!).

      Thanks for chiming in and do keep me posted! 🙂