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Cirque du Soleil Accident: Performer Dies on Stage

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on July 01, 2013 12:35 PM

A performer died after a Cirque du Soleil accident during a show in Las Vegas, authorities and the company said Sunday.

Sarah Guillot Guyard, 31, a member of the cast of the "KA" show at the MGM Grand, was pronounced dead shortly before midnight Saturday, according to the Clark County Coroner's office. The cause of death has yet to be determined.

Guyard, a mother of two who spent more than 22 years as an aerial artist, performed as "Sassoon" in the show, which involves aerial acrobatics. She had been part of the cast of "KA" since 2006, Reuters reports.

Potential Liability?

When performers audition for a tour with the company, they sign a Cirque du Soleil registration form that forms a contract between the performer and Cirque. For purposes of the audition, the form exempts the company of liability and asserts the performer's assumption of risk.

This is the type of language to look out for:

I acknowledge that my participation in the Cirque du Soleil audition ... may involve the risk of accident that could result in serious injuries (muscle tearing, bone fracture, concussion, etc.) up to and including permanent disability and death.

I hereby release Cirque du Soleil Inc., its parent company and affiliated companies, its shareholders, directors, officers, employees and consultants (collectively "Cirque") from any liability in connection with any injuries I may suffer as a result of my participation and my performance during the audition.

After the audition phase, it is almost certain that Cirque du Soleil performers sign additional waivers; those likely include similar releases of liability for injuries or death.

Just like any intense sporting activity, there are inherent risks that a Cirque du Soleil participant generally assumes by performing. It's the thrill and risk that draws the crowds.

So Guyard may potentially have assumed liability, if she signed a contract with Cirque.

When a Waiver May Not Work

Regardless, such waivers don't protect against injuries or death caused by the organizers' intentional behavior or gross negligence.

Though Cirque du Soleil didn't intend to cause Guyard's death, the organization may still face lawsuits based on gross negligence, including a potential wrongful death claim by Guyard's relatives.

That might be a tough sell, as this was the first death of a performer during a show in Cirque du Soleil's 29-year history, according to a spokesman.

In Saturday's Cirque du Soleil accident, a wire suspending Guyard reportedly snapped as she and other performers were being lifted up during the show's "final battle scene," reports Time.

Though details are sparse, if Guyard's aerial stunt death resulted from unsafe work conditions at the MGM Grand (faulty equipment, for example), her family may have a grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit.

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