Higher education

State pays University of Iowa student who fell from climbing wall $75,000

Deal reached nearly four years after incident

University of Iowa Campus Recreation & Wellness Center Touch the Earth intern Logan Williams of Iowa City conducts a ref
University of Iowa Campus Recreation & Wellness Center Touch the Earth intern Logan Williams of Iowa City conducts a refresher safety training in front of the bouldering wall Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, in Iowa City. The UI’s climbing wall opened in January 2013 after UI senior Spencer Bean was injured in a 30-40 foot fall in November of 2012. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The State of Iowa has agreed to pay a former University of Iowa student $75,000 after he fell 30 to 40 feet from the school’s climbing wall in 2012 and suffered serious injuries, including two crushed vertebrae in his spine.

Spencer Bean, who was both a UI student and university recreational services employee assigned to the climbing wall, fell off the 52.5-foot wall in the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center on Nov. 8, 2012.

He filed a lawsuit in June 2014 accusing the university of negligence for, among other things, failing to properly supervise the apparatus, test equipment and train climbers. The State Appeal Board on Tuesday approved a $75,000 settlement with Bean, who in exchange agreed to drop his case against the university.

Bean, who was 21 at the time of his fall, described the incident in his lawsuit, explaining he was not working at the time and was “lead climbing” with a partner — relying on that person to belay him. As Bean neared the top of the wall, he fell 30 to 40 feet to the ground, landing on his feet, according to the lawsuit.

In a blog posted after the fall, Bean’s friends and family members said he underwent eight hours of surgery, during which doctors had to collapse his left lung. In his lawsuit, Bean said he wasn’t responsible for the fall and instead blamed the university for failing to supervise climbers, oversee access to the wall to prevent distractions, train climbers, monitor use of non-UI equipment and test belayers and devices.

According to the family blog, Bean was expected to make a full recovery. And a spencerebean.com website shows he graduated from UI in 2013 and now is — among other things — an entrepreneur. He’s started brewing his own beer under the label “40 Foot Fall Brewery,” according to the site.

“After a tumble while rock climbing left me a little beat up, I appropriately named my brewery 40 Foot Fall,” he wrote.


Following Bean’s accident, the university in 2012 closed its climbing wall and conducted an internal investigation. The inspection determined neither the wall nor its components contributed to the fall — although it didn’t establish a cause.

Risk Management officials did, however, suggest the university make some changes before reopening the wall, including mandating stricter training and testing policies, updating camera equipment, re-evaluating what non-UI equipment is allowed, and communicating to users that they are responsible for those devices.

The wall reopened Jan. 22, 2013.

Cambus settlement

The State Appeal Board on Tuesday also agreed to pay Elizabeth and Ryan Lester $50,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging negligence on behalf of a UI Cambus driver in March 2012. According to the settlement, Elizabeth Lester “was struck in a crosswalk and suffers from ongoing pain as a result.”

Her husband filed a consortium claim, according to the settlement.

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