Magician David Copperfield has been forced to reveal the secret of one of his signature tricks after being sued by an injured British audience member.
Gavin Cox, from Kent, claims he suffered lasting brain and body injuries after agreeing to take part in the “Lucky #13” illusion in 2013.
Mr Cox, who had previously cooked for the Royal Family, has not worked since he fell over while being led through a secret passageway at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
The 57-year-old and 12 other volunteers were taking part in an illusion in which they appeared to vanish on stage, before re-emerging later at the back of the theatre.
Mr Cox claims he was injured when he was “hurried with no guidance or instruction through a dark area under construction, with cement dust and debris causing him to slip and fall”.
The audience member was taken to hospital with a dislocated shoulder but claims he suffered chronic pain, headaches and confusion when he returned to the UK.
Mr Cox, who was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and needed two fusion surgeries on his neck and shoulder, claims he has paid out more than $400,000 (£282,000) in medical expenses.
He is seeking unspecified damages in the lawsuit, which also names the MGM Grand, show producer Backstage Employment and Referral, and building firm Construction Management.
Judge Mark Denton said some parts of the magician’s testimony might still be conducted behind closed doors.
Mr Copperfield’s lawyers lost pretrial bids at Clark Country District Court, Nevada, to avoid the secret of the trick being revealed to the public.
The magician, 61, testified on Wednesday that he did not know Mr Cox had been hurt until the audience member sued him.
He faced questioning from Mr Cox’s lawyer, Benedict Morelli, and told him: “If I did something wrong, it would be my fault.”
Mr Morelli said: “You defence in this case is if they participate and someone gets hurt, it’s their fault, not yours.
“Is that accurate, yes or no?”
Mr Copperfield replied: “It’s not a simple yes or no answer.”
The performer said he did not know whether there was a powdery residue near a trash bin in an alley at the MGM Grand.
He said he passed through the same outdoor alley alone while performing another illusion about 10 minutes earlier and did not notice any debris.
Chris Kenner, director of Backstage Employment and Referral, said the illusion had been performed thousands of times over the last 20 years.
He said roughly 55,000 people had taken part in the last decade with no problems reported.
The court heard how the Lucky #13 vanishing act starts with the audience members in a cage.
A curtain is then drawn around it before assistants lead the volunteers through passageways, out of the venue, back indoors, through an MGM Resort kitchen, and then into the rear of the theatre.
They then make a dramatic reappearance during the finale.
David Copperfield is one of the highest earning entertainers in the world, with his net worth listed by Forbes as $800m in 2018.
He is due to return to the witness stand on Tuesday.