In what certainly could be many more to follow, the first two lawsuits against the self-help guru, James Ray, who once appeared in the hit documentary called “The Secret”, has been filed in Coconino County Superior Court last Friday. The motivational guru led a group of participants, who each paid $9,000, into a sweat lodge modeled after Indian tribes to aid in seeking visions. The ceremony became fatal after Ray disallowed participants from leaving the lodge despite the pleadings of the now dead victims.
According to the lawsuit, a survivor and a victim’s family members are claiming wrongful death, negligence and fraud, among other allegations. Attorneys representing Sidney Spencer and surviving family members of Liz Neuman filed the suits and named James Arthur Ray and his company, James Ray International, as defendants, along with Michael and Amayra Hamilton who own the retreat center where the sweat lodge was built. The lawsuit contends that the victims seek unspecified compensatory damages to cover the costs of Sidney and Neuman’s hospitalization and attorney fees in addition to punitive damages to punish the defendants and deter them from similar conduct.
The deceased, Neuman, 49, was one of 60 participants who joined the fatal sweat lodge ceremony at the end of a five-day retreat in a secluded area outside of Sedona earlier this month. The police reports state that at least 20 others were taken to the hospital and Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y., and James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee died at the scene after what appears to be heat stroke from the sauna-like hut.
Neuman spent 10 days in Flagstaff Medical Center before she died, and the suit notes that none of the defendants called Neuman’s family members to tell them she was sick. Neuman’s family has said they learned she was in the hospital through media reports.
Another victim, Spencer, spent 10 days trying to stay alive in Flagstaff Medical Center after she was exposed to “extreme heat, inadequate hydration, oxygen and toxic fumes,” according to the lawsuit. The claim allege that Ray and the other defendants failed to monitor the participants’ well being in the sweat lodge, and did not provide medical treatment after the women became ill and demonstrated visible signs of dehydration.
The sweat lodge was only 415-square-foot and packed more than 60 people inside its walls. The structure purportedly, lacked adequate ventilation, light and failed to have any device in order to monitor the temperature. The lawsuit further alleges that Ray ignored the real dangers of the sweat-lodge ceremony and the 36-hour fast that preceded it. James Ray International’s five day “Spiritual Warrior” retreat took the process way over the line and should not have risked so much.
There are generally four elements to a wrongful death claim/lawsuit whether filed in Virginia (VA), North Carolina (NC) or other states. State-by-state the wrongful death laws differ, and if you believe your loved one or family may have a wrongful death claim, you should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper Lewis & Appleton is a law firm which focuses on injury and accident law and we have experience handling wrongful death cases. Check out our case results to see for yourself. Our law firm has offices in Elizabeth City, North Carolina (NC) and Virginia Beach, Virginia (VA). Our attorneys have handled numerous wrongful death cases and we understand the difficult circumstances which accompany these types of cases. That’s why you need an experienced attorney to help you through the legal process. Our lawyers hold licenses in NC, VA, SC, WV, KY and DC. We are ready to talk to you by phone right now—we provide free initial confidential injury case consultations, so call us toll free at 1-800-752-0042. Our injury attorneys also host an extensive injury law video library on Youtube . In addition, our lawyers proudly edit the Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard, as well as the Virginia Beach Injuryboard and Norfolk Injuryboard as a pro bono public information service.