David Dobrik is a name you may not easily recognize unless you spend way too much time on YouTube. He is a semi-popular internet personality with considerable clout, particularly on the video-sharing platform. That just means he somehow obtained a number of subscribers large enough for him to be considered popular.
Dobrik, it appears, is a controversy magnet. We did some digging and found ourselves falling down a rabbit hole of his past shenanigans involving personal injury cases and the bewildering circumstances around them. Could we, as personal injury lawyers, handle any of the cases in these scenarios? Let’s take a look.
Scenario #1: Pranking a male friend into kissing another male
If you have tens of millions of YouTube subscribers, there are a lot of worthy causes you can help support using your platform. You can post videos asking people to donate to organizations working toward ending world hunger, pushing to combat climate change, or any number of other noble causes.
To put things into perspective, however, even the United Nations has only 1.5 million YouTube subscribers. This is how you know that not many people subscribe to channels that tell them to part with their money as a contribution to making the world a better place.
Dobrik’s channel, which has 18.3 million subscribers, does not have a single video advocating for climate change. What it does consist of are four-minute videos with a range of non-climate change-related content — from the harmless (surprising his friends by giving them a puppy) to the bizarre (driving a convertible into a car wash). In other words, high-quality content for a certain niche of viewers.
He also occasionally posts videos where he and his team play with the boundaries of acceptable vlogger behavior. In one video posted in June 2017, Dobrik tricked Seth Francois, a former member of his vlog squad, into kissing a 47-year-old male named Jason Nash. The prank was that Francois was supposed to kiss female influencer and model Corinna Kopf. As a straight male, Francois would have much preferred to kiss a woman.
Because it is such outstanding content, the video garnered millions of views. In 2021, Francois spoke about the incident at a podcast, calling it a traumatizing sexual assault.
In this scenario, we would counsel Mr. Francois to stay away from the troublesome company of Mr. Dobrik and avoid any situation involving being blindfolded and kissing an unidentified person.
Scenario #2: Operating an excavator to create comedic content
In June 2020, Dobrik and his team went wakeboarding on a shallow lake. The twist is that Dobrik would operate an excavator that will swing the willing participants around the waterhole.
Jeff Wittek, one of the participants in the vlog, met with an accident when Dobrik swung him higher and faster than was deemed safe, which resulted in Wittek smashing into the arm of the excavator.
For Dobrik, this was just another stunt-gone-awry video. But for Wittek, who suffered serious facial injuries, this was a life-threatening scenario for which getting legal counsel would have been appropriate.
This is a case we would take on. Although there is video evidence, there’s more to this incident than identifying the negligent party. The economic impact of the injury on Mr. Wittek would have to be considered, too.
Interestingly, Wittek also makes money from his own YouTube channel, and one of the videos on his channel is a short documentary about his injury.
Scenario #3: Causing severe injuries in a pine cone fight
A pine cone fight is exactly what it sounds like: fighting using pine cones, which are conical woody fruits of pine trees. Some people eat pine cones, but the rounded cones’ most important role is to keep pine trees’ seeds safe. Because of its solid-hard composition, pine cones may be used as a weapon or as a prop for a prank. And who would pull off such a feat? That’s right — David Dobrik would.
In a 2016 video, Dobrik detailed how he injured his friend Alex Neumann by throwing a pine cone at Neumann’s eye back when they were in the seventh grade. As a result of the fight, Neumann contracted a staph infection in the eye. The infection led to debilitating injuries, including difficulty walking and hip injuries, which necessitated surgeries and medical treatment amounting to $10,000.
Dobrik detailed all of these in a video titled “How I Ruined My Best Friend’s Life.” The video is at least honest.
There’s definitely a personal injury case here, and perhaps if Mr. Neumann and his parents were less forgiving toward Dobrik, they could have filed suit. And maybe, just maybe, Dobrik’s channel would contain much fewer offensive, inappropriate videos. Perhaps, he would have considered posting four-minute videos about climate change from then on.
Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams are personal injury attorneys in Washington State. Call our Renton offices or leave us a message if you need local, experienced, and dedicated attorneys to handle your personal injury case.