Magicians famously never reveal their secrets, but on Tuesday illusionist David Copperfield took the stand to explain a trick.
That illusion landed him in the middle of a legal battle after a British tourist claimed he was seriously injured when participating.
Copperfield is being sued by a tourist who claimed he slipped on construction dust during one of Copperfield's tricks. The magician denied any fault. Copperfield insisted he knew of no one being injured during more than 15 years of performing a signature vanishing act.
The magician stood firm in his belief that it is safe and he takes the measures to make ensure safety during his performances.
“If those shoes created a challenge, I would look carefully and see how they rock those shoes and I would know whether or not they would be able to do the piece.”
Copperfield noted that before he picks audience members to do the trick he asks, "Are you 18 or older and in good health?' He also said he uses humor to give instructions saying, "there may be violence," to acknowledge the safety risks in play. He compared it to airline exit row passenger instructions.
The illusion in question makes people seem to disappear on stage and reappear in the back of the theater.
At least 55,000 audience volunteers have taken part in the illusion over 17 years, according to Copperfield and show executive producer Chris Kenner, who testified last week.
In 60 to 90 seconds, stagehands with flashlights ushered randomly chosen participants past dark curtains, down passageways, around corners, outdoors, indoors and through an MGM Grand resort kitchen to re-enter the theater and "reappear" for the show finale, according to testimony.
Copperfield remains on stage the entire time.
Benedict Morelli, attorney for plaintiff Gavin Cox, has characterized the route as an obstacle course and the pace as dangerously fast for people who might not have appropriate footwear and are not told in advance what they will encounter.
Copperfield said he and stagehands assessed the capabilities of audience volunteers as they approached the stage, climbed stairs and seated themselves in a 13-seat apparatus for the illusion. The trick is dubbed "The Thirteen," for the number of seats.
The jury has been told that some volunteers were turned away.
"I'm not in the business of hurting people," Copperfield said.
"The illusion must be safe because of how many people have done it without getting injured?" Morelli asked.
"Numbers are not a defense," Copperfield said, adding he couldn't remember hearing of anyone getting hurt.
Copperfield said he didn't know Cox claimed to have been injured in November 2013 until he was sued the following year. He said he stopped performing the illusion a year later.
Cox alleged he fell after being hurried by stagehands through an alleyway coated with a powdery residue near a trailer-sized trash bin. The resident of Kent, England, claimed lasting brain and bodily injuries from his fall have cost him more than $400,000 in medical care.
Copperfield's lawyers lost pretrial motions to close proceedings to the public to avoid giving away performance secrets.
A state appeals court ruled Friday that Denton can close the courtroom to the public for some testimony to protect trade-craft.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright 2018 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.