VOLUNTEER ACTOR SUES RYERSON AND FORMER FILM STUDENT FOR $1 MILLION

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By Patrick Szpak

Associate News Editor

A woman acting in an end of year film assignment has launched a $1-million lawsuit against Ryerson and the student director, after she was struck in the head by a movie light on the set.

Tijana Popovic launched her suit last November after she reportedly has suffered months of dizziness, fatigue and headaches.

Continuing eduction film student Kai Wan Laurence Li invited Popovic to perform in his final film assignment, Poly Cotton and a Catholic Girl, last May. Popovic alleges in the statement of claim that during a break in shooting a film light on a stand toppled over and hit her on the head. The next day she went to the hospital to get an x-ray and an MRI. The result — a mild concussion and time in a neck brace.

Since the incident, Popovic said she has “suffered pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.”

Furthermore, the accident “had a detrimental impact on all of the social and recreational activities that she previously enjoyed.”

Popovic is claiming damages of $1 million, including loss of income, medical expenses and future house-keeping costs.

Ryerson University, Li, and the owners of the building where the incident occurred, World Sewing Machine and Trading Enterprises, are all named in the suit.

“(Li) failed to inspect all film equipment prior to setting up or in the alternative, he failed to inspect the equipment on an ongoing basis,” the suit reads.

“He did not adhere to any Ryerson University protocols or policies pertaining to the filming off school grounds,” it continues.

James Warrack, head of the continuing education film program, said that he had spoken to Li and that he is aware of the lawsuit. Warrack said that Li told him that he disagrees with what Popovic alleges in the suit, but would not comment further on the case.

Ryerson University allegedly failed to supervise the shooting, properly inspected the equipment and “initiated or enforce any protocols or policies pertaining to any of its students filming off school grounds.”

Popovic, now living in Vancouver, said she “stands behind all of the allegations in the suit” and that it’s “all about safety in the end.” However, Popovic declined to comment on any of the specifics fearing she would jeopardize her case.

Phil Taylor, head of the equipment cage at the film school, said that “no student can gain access to any equipment without first taking a mandatory faculty-run safety class.”

Alexandra Anderson, program director of film studies said that “students are well trained and equipped to deal with off-site filming situations.” Adding that “safety and filming policies are covered in class.”

When asked if the lawsuit would have any ramifications on safety procedures and policies Anderson said, “we feel fairly confident about our current procedures; we have an excellent record but obviously we continue to learn as we go along.”

Ryerson Students’ Union lawyer William Reid wrote in an e-mail that “I wouldn’t suggest that a student count on any insurance coverage (from the university).”

He added that students should get their house-hold insurance or short-term insurance to cover these kinds of lawsuits.

The firm representing Popovic in the case, Fireman Wolfe LLP, refused to comment saying only that the suit is ongoing.

Ryerson has yet to be served and so was surprised to learn of the suit. General counsel Julia Hanigsberg said once they are legally served they will send the documents to the school’s insurers, who will in turn retain outside lawyers.

When asked if she was friends with Li during the shooting of Poly Cotton and a Catholic Girl Popovic laughed and said, “I don’t want to comment on that.”

Ryerson is currently involved in another personal injury case launched by Douglas and Olive Shearer filed on June 13, 2006 against the school and the Board of Governors.

— with files from Alex Nassiri

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