By Daniel Jackson and Meredith Kreigh
Bryan College is named as one of several defendants in a $20-million lawsuit over an accident that left a man paralyzed last July.
Larry and Melinda Moss, of Chatsworth, Ga., filed suit March 19 in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga against the National Association of Christian Athletes–which owns Fort Bluff Camp on Dayton Mountain–Bryan College and several unnamed defendants.
The suit surrounds a July 4 trip that the Mosses took to Fort Bluff with their church’s youth group. While the group was using an obstacle course at Fort Bluff, Larry Moss broke his back and became paraplegic, according to the complaint.
Bryan President Stephen Livesay declined to comment on the lawsuit.
“We’re referring all comments to Johnny Critchfield, who is our attorney,” he said, “and that is his request.”
Critchfield also declined to comment on the lawsuit.
“We haven’t seen a copy of the complaint yet,” Critchfield said Tuesday afternoon.
Lawyers on both sides are keeping tight-lipped. One of the the Mosses lawyers, Scott Delius, also declined to speak to Triangle, saying he is not allowed to “comment via court.”
Court records say Moss taught Sunday school and his wife directed the youth choir at the Eleventh Avenue Baptist Church in Dalton, Ga. Last year, they traveled to Fort Bluff Camp with a group of youth to spend the weekend.
It was about 11 a.m. July 4 when the group went to the Crucible.
The Crucible, according to the Fort Bluff website, is “An eight-station obstacle course designed from a Marine Boot Camp, The Crucible teaches teens how to work together as they unite to make it to the finish.”
The obstacle course lies in a clearing in a wooded strip in the western part of the camp. Three football fields lie to the east, and Ogden Road runs past it to the north.
Moss would have started the course at the rock wall, moving around the clearing in a counter-clockwise path, crossing “Canyon Falls,” navigating the “Tire Cross” and climbing the “Cargo Platform.”
The cargo platform is the only platform in the course. When Triangle visited the course Tuesday afternoon, we found a pad of foam, about 18 inches thick, below the platform.
Court documents said two employees who were running the Crucible told Moss to jump from the platform, about 10 feet high, onto the pad and land in a seated position.
Moss jumped. When he landed, he suffered a burst fracture at the L1 level of his lower back, according to his complaint. He was 44 at the time of the accident.
He was transported to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga and was discharged on July 10.
Moss’ complaint said he goes for rehabilitation three times a week and has difficulty going to the bathroom, needing adult diapers, a special toilet seat and medication.
“He has in the past and will in the future continue to be permanently disabled from performing his normal work, playing and interacting with his children and doing the things he loved to do in life,” said the complaint filed by Moss’ attorney.
Since July, the Moss family claims to have spent over $200,000 in medical bills and expects Larry Moss’ future treatments to cost “at least” $5 million.
The Mosses said the pad was “nothing more than an old piece of thin and rotted foam,” and the defendants were negligent in “hiring and retaining unqualified employees to work at the Crucible.”
The suit said Fort Bluff Camp is “owned, operated and/or managed by Bryan College.”
However, Livesay said Bryan College and Fort Bluff are separate nonprofit corporations, although he is the chair of the board at Fort Bluff.