• Sat. May 18th, 2024

Creative legal claim can have big NFL ramifications

Denver Broncos reserve linebacker Aaron Patrick is arguing that he should be permitted to seek damages through basic ‘slip, trip and fall’ legal parameters following a freak accident he sustained last season.

Patrick suffered an ACL tear in the game at the Los Angeles Chargers at their So Fi Field stadium last season when his cleat stuck on some synthetic turf carpet used to hide power cables next to the field.

The reserve linebacker has now filed a lawsuit against the league organiser NFL, broadcaster ESPN, Los Angeles Rams, and the Chargers. The NFL and Chargers have now successfully petitioned for the case to be moved from the state court to the federal court. The legal decision allows them to focus on fighting the case on the grounds of the league’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the players.

Patrick is having none of it and is counter arguing that he shouldn’t have to be restricted by the confines of the NFL’s CBA. He claims that he should be permitted to seek damages through basic ‘slip, trip and fall’ legal parameters that are part of most occupational health and safety acts and that can hold companies and property owners liable when they do not go to great lengths to safeguard any user of a facility.

Should Patrick succeed, other players would be able, in the future, to press their own claims outside the broad-ranging CBA and hold individual stadium operators accountable for injuries sustained due to their own negligence and on a case-by-case basis. This could include injuries sustained on the playing surface.

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, a former lawyer, called it “an aggressive and creative way to use the legal system to force the NFL and its teams to provide safer playing surfaces for the men who play the game. Patrick’s complex legal case and forceful stand could set a huge precedent for generations of future players. In the process, it could put the use of synthetic turf surfaces under serious threat and rewrite the legalities of the NFL’s hard-fought CBA deal with the players.”

Not the first time

Patrick’s approach can be successful. In December last year, the Bank of America Stadium field failed the Clegg test pregame, but the NFL proceeded with the game anyway. he field reportedly passed the test late in the first half. According to J.C. Tretter of the NFLPA, the association for NFL players, the league had acknowledged that the field was not safe. If a player would have been injured during the period, the stadium or league organiser would have been liable due to their neglect of their responsibilities to deliver a safe facility.

Guy Oldenkotte

Guy Oldenkotte is senior editor of sportsfields.info and has been covering the outdoor sportssurfaces market and industry since 2003

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