In November of 2018, 23-year-old Jack Greener was a beginner Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu student at Del Mar Jiu-Jitsu Club in Del Mar, California. He was paired with 30-year-old Francisco Iturralde, a second-degree black belt instructor nicknamed “Sinistro” who placed him in a turtle position. Rather than ending the maneuver safely, the instructor placed all his weight on Mr. Greener’s neck, crushing his cervical vertebrae causing him to become paralyzed in all extremities.
Rahul Ravipudi, Paul Traina, John Shaller, and Trevor Weitzenberg, along with our co-counsel at Morris, Sullivan & Lemkul LLP, obtained a landmark $46,475,112.33 jury verdict for Mr. Greener on Tuesday. Notably, the jury found no fault on behalf of Mr. Greener.
“At trial, Mr. Iturralde testified that he knew his obligations were to be safe and minimize risk for his white belt student, Jack Greener, and that he failed to do so by attempting a dangerous move without any control over his student or himself,” said lead trial attorney and firm partner, Rahul Ravipudi. “Despite these admissions, defense counsel continued to deny responsibility and minimize the harms and losses to Jack Greener who was weeks away from graduating from college and starting his career as a professional surf instructor in Costa Rica. His life as he knew it was taken away from him on November 29, 2018.
His lawyers said that he underwent multiple surgeries and was hospitalized for months.
Now a quadriplegic, Greener sought out “compensation for medical expenses, loss of earnings, and emotional distress”. Jurors ruled in his favor and he was awarded $46 million.
Rener Gracie was called in to testify as an expert witness. Rener Gracie does not allow his white belts students to spar for the first 6 months. Gracie Barra also applies the same principle.
Here’s what he had to say about his view of the case, in a recent Instagram post:
This case was a tragedy in every sense. 23-year-old white belt, Jack Greener, was sparring at a BJJ school in San Diego when the black belt instructor did a technique that placed his entire bodyweight on Greener’s neck causing him to instantly fall limp and lose all function of his limbs.
Jack, an aspiring surf instructor, will never regain full function of his limbs, but I’m hopeful that this ruling will ease the burdens that he and his family will face for the rest of his life.
I’m also hopeful that this case will serve as a much needed reminder to the entire industry of the massive responsibility we shoulder every time a new student trusts us to guide them on their Jiu-Jitsu journey.
Prominent BJJ instructor and academy owner Dan Lukehart, offered some insight on the case as he saw the the footage of the incident and has more inside information as to what really happened:
“So….I know a whole lot more about the incident that resulted in the paralysis of the student and a 46 million dollar judgment. Some people reached out to me privately with various bits of information. The primary thing leaked to me is video of the incident. I assume if it made its way to me, it will eventually be public and you will see it.
My main takeaways are:
1. First, the video. It’s obviously horrendous it happened. I feel great compassion for the person injured and dont really have a problem that he receives money to cover medical bills and pain and suffering.
HOWEVER. It is my opinion with 17 years grappling experience that this 100% a freak accident that could have happened to ANY gym….ANY instructor…and ANYBODY rolling in general. To make some judgement of Sinistro being negligent is frankly insane…especially when other mitigating factors are in play.(#2)
The movement was the Leo Vieira back take.
This back take can be done a number of different ways. You can jump directly over the top straight on for example…or off to the side….and with various levels of the guy somersaulting forwards. Sinistro jumped to the left side from rear turtle, which gives the head and neck room to be fine with a left shoulder roll into a sideways style rolling backtake. It wouldn’t have been one of those spectacular ones where you pull him straight over the top as you see in some of the instances in Leo’s highlights. Sometimes when Leo did it straight over like this, there were almost 2 parts of the technique…where offensive guy jumps over the top and lands in a bridge position…and then after a moment then pull the guy over. It wasn’t this.
It was a bit more off to the side and intended to be one movement. An analogy is when you try an overhead/balloon sweep from guard, but you take him a tad more sideways than over the top really. Sinistros attempt here wouldn’t have been quite as spectacular as some of Leo’s. It was a rolling backtake still.
Because it was a little to the left, it did give a lot of room for the head/neck to be fine, but only on the one side. This would have happened normally 99.9X% of the time, but a split second after he started the technique his partner turns his head in the exact opposite way of the path to clear the neck. It wasn’t a huge movement. It was subtle. You need to watch it a few times to figure out how it ended up in that position. He did it at the worst possible time. Sinistro already started his jump and just when his momentum translates into his partner, he had turned his neck. Since there was ample space on one side for the neck to clear, it leaves no room should the neck be the other way.
It wasn’t an unintelligent spazzy reaction. It’s not clear what his intention was. It was suggested to me he was attempting a graby roll. It’s possible, but it’s difficult to surmise his intent as it happened early in what he attempted. It all went wrong so fast at the worst moment and there was no possible time to adjust on Sinistros part.
This video can not be characterized as Sinistro going nuts or roid raging on the guy for going too hard either. It was just a normal roll. NORMAL. He showed immediate compassion.
I read on Reddit that Sinistro admitted negligence in the trial. I don’t know how true that is, but if it is then….BULL to his own admission. He might be suffering from insane guilt and I’m not discounting he has PTSD from the experience as any normal person would have. He should be absolved of any judgment of wrongdoing by the grappling community. It…was…a….freak….accident.
2. The injured party had quite a bit of grappling experience and in no possible reality should he be described as a beginner. He had 3 years or so of BJJ and wrestling before that. He was from Baret Yoshidas gym…who is known for sandbagging white belts.
You have read that he was pretty skilled on Reddit now…including from black belt who said he rolled with him and described him as a tough and competent grappler. The information about the grapplers experience level was not allowed to be submitted/discussed in trial. This is part of the basis for appeal. I agree this should have been allowed to be presented at trial as it is relevant to how and what manner Sinistro should have been rolling with him and hence if negligence was in play.
ANY CHARACTERIZATION OF SOME NEW WHITE BELT TRYING CLASS AND SINISTRO DID SOME CRAZY TECHNIQUE HE WASNT READY FOR SHOULD BE REJECTED.
3. Rener Gracie is out of control money and attention hungry parasite. I need some additional clarification and details here before I can blast him properly on the merits of what he said. I know some, and it’s infuriating. Baisically Rener is putting the way that 95%+ of the BJJ community runs an academy on trial and representing his very left field views as mainstream. This has implications for ALL OF US because his side won.
For expert witnesses testimony he billed at $3000/hour. He billed 42 hours. He was the charismatic and well spoken star expert witness that sealed the deal for the prosecution. I never cuss….and I want to at that. Parasite.
(Clark Gracie offered expert testimony for the defense)
If this post is mysteriously deleted and I refuse to answer questions about this, one could assume I am involved in the appeal somehow. I reserve the right to modify my viewpoint as new information and facts come to light. If this is screen shot and presented in some trial at some point, know that my expert witness testimony is billed at the rate of 1 chipotle burrito per day just to set Reners $3000/hour @$$ straight and actually represent the grappling standard of practice fairly.”