The Chargers and the NFL will avoid facing the legal claims of Broncos linebacker Aaron Patrick in a court of law.
On Thursday, a federal judge dismissed a portion of Patrick’s claims arising from a torn ACL he suffered after tripping on a cable along the sideline at SoFi Stadium during a Monday night game last season. Specifically, the Chargers and the NFL have escaped the case, based on the conclusion that Patrick’s exclusive remedy against the team and the league resides within the confines of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The conclusion flows from the judge’s decision that the risks inherent to the game include the “risk of injury arising from collision with objects on the sidelines . . . whether those objects are other players or team staff, benches, coolers, camera equipment, or audiovisual equipment with their attendant cables and cords.”
The outcome does not provide a silver bullet for others who were sued, including the company that owns SoFi Stadium and ESPN, whose cables allegedly created the hazard. It’s nevertheless likely that all remaining defendants will now try to shift responsibility to the team and/or the league, forcing the entire case into the procedures made available under the CBA.
It remains to be seen how things will play out. It would be unfortunate if the outcome essentially creates immunity from civil litigation for anyone and everyone who might create a hazard in the vicinity of an NFL field. The risk of fiscal responsibility is often the thing that forces people to consider the hazards they’re creating, and to ponder mechanisms for resolving them.