Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone
NEW YORK — Eugenie Bouchard on Wednesday gave her first public account of the night she fell and hit her head at the 2015 U.S. Open as her trial against the U.S. Tennis Association continued in federal court in Brooklyn.
On that night, Bouchard, a player from Canada, said she told a trainer, Kristy Stahr, that she would return to take an ice bath after completing other postmatch activities, which included cooling down with stretching and fulfilling media obligations.
When she came back, the trainers had left. She said she changed into a bathing-ready outfit, walked toward the baths, which are through the trainers’ room, and took two steps into the trainers’ room before slipping, falling and hitting her head on the tile floor.
“I was laying there shocked, staring at the ceiling,” she said.
Her first reaction was to a burning sensation caused by a cleaning solution used on the floor, she said. She told a locker room attendant, Karen Owens, that she had slipped and fallen. Owens expressed surprise that Bouchard had entered the room.
Article Continued Below
“’Oh no, you weren’t supposed to go in there,’” Bouchard recounted Owens saying. Owens testified similarly on Tuesday.
Bouchard then showered to wash the caustic substance off her body and left for the evening.
Bouchard was the final witness for the plaintiff’s side. She testified for just over an hour at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, giving concise, direct answers and betraying little emotion. After describing her early-career accomplishments — which included being named WTA newcomer of the year in 2013 and reaching a Wimbledon final in 2014 — Bouchard discussed her familiarity with her postmatch routine, which includes stretching, interviews and often an ice bath.
The heavy-duty cleaning product, Oasis 299, had not been used at the U.S. Open before that night. HP Products, the manufacturer of Oasis 299, says contact can cause “severe skin burns” in its safety data sheet on the product.
Neither the tournament nor its employees have reached a consensus on who applied the substance to the floor, which was done just before Bouchard slipped and fell. Owens, who acted as the room’s supervisor, testified that it was another employee, Christina Simmons, who cleaned the floor under her supervision. Simmons denied this in her own subsequent testimony, saying that she was seven months pregnant at the time and not given tasks that included using chemicals.
On cross-examination from Alan Kaminsky, the lawyer representing the tennis association, Bouchard rebutted the defense’s refrain that there is an understanding or rule that players are not supposed to enter the trainers’ room when trainers are not there. Players freely enter, she said, to obtain drinks or other materials stored in the room.
“They encourage us to go in when they’re not there,” Bouchard said of the trainers.
Bouchard’s lawyer, Benedict Morelli, showed examples of informational and instructional materials from various tennis governing bodies — the WTA, the Grand Slam committee and the U.S. Open — none of which mention any rule prohibiting players from entering the training room without a trainer present.
“It’s part of the locker room, and it’s our room where we can come and go as we please,” Bouchard said in her testimony.
A jury of four women and three men was selected Tuesday morning. The first witness was David Brewer, the tournament director of the U.S. Open, who testified on behalf of the tennis association.
The next three witnesses were women who worked as locker room staff at the tournament. Their supervisor, Owens, said that she understood WTA trainers saying “good night” as a way to indicate that all players had left for the evening. Cleaning the floor is supposed to begin only after all the players have left. Morelli has contended that it should have been visibly apparent that Bouchard had not left for the night, given that her bag and other belongings were strewn about her locker area.
No details of Bouchard’s injury, which included a concussion, have been introduced in this initial phase of the trial, which will determine the tennis association’s liability. The effects of her injury, including lost earnings and suffering, for which Bouchard is seeking compensation, would be discussed in the damages phase of the trial should the association be found liable.
The tennis association has tried to distinguish itself from the WTA, which employs the trainers who provide treatment to players at tournaments year-round, including in the trainers’ room at the U.S. Open. It has asserted that the lone employee whom Bouchard told she intended to return was Stahr, who is employed by the WTA.