Aaron Patrick, a linebacker for the Denver Broncos, filed a lawsuit on November 15 against the NFL, ESPN, the Los Angeles Chargers and others, alleging that dangerous sideline conditions led to him tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a personal injury which will keep Patrick out for the entirety of the season.
Patrick’s injury occurred during the Broncos’ October 17 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. The lawsuit, which was filed in California Superior Court, claims that Patrick’s momentum during a punt return took him off of the field where he collided with an “improperly situated” NFL TV liaison and stepped on a mat which was placed near the sideline in order to cover cables connected to an NFL instant replay monitor. The complaint claims that Patrick’s cleats lodged in the mat or cables, causing his left knee to contort, leading to his torn ACL.
The lawsuit alleges that all of the defendants were negligent, and is similar to a lawsuit that former NFL player Reggie Bush won. Bush slipped on concrete after running out of bounds at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis in 2015 and tore his meniscus. A jury ordered the St. Louis Rams, who now play in Los Angeles, to pay Bush almost $12.5 million in 2018.
The defendants in the lawsuit include:
The National Football League
The complaint names the NFL as a defendant, arguing that the NFL was responsible for the instant replay monitor’s placement. The complaint claims that the NFL “created a known dangerous condition” and was responsible for the placement of the cables and mat.
The complaint names Stadco LA, LLC (d/b/a SoFi Stadium) as a defendant, alleging that SoFi Stadium was responsible for allowing or creating dangerous conditions which caused Patrick’s injury.
Hollywood Park Land Company, LLC
The complaint names Hollywood Park Land Company, LLC as a defendant, alleging that the company, as the operator, controller and/or owner of the premises, was responsible for allowing or creating dangerous conditions which led to Patrick tearing his ACL.
Stockbridge Capital Group, LLC
The complaint names Stockbridge Capital Group, LLC as a defendant, claiming that Stockbridge, as the controller, operator and/or owner of the premises, was partially responsible for allowing dangerous conditions to exist which led to Patrick being injured.
The Flesher Group
The complaint names The Flesher Group as a defendant, arguing that The Flesher Group, as part controller, operator and/or owner of the premises, was partially responsible for allowing dangerous conditions to exist which caused Patrick’s injury.
Kroenke Sports & Entertainment Company
The complaint names Kroenke Sports & Entertainment Company as a defendant, arguing that, as the controller, operator and/or owner of the premises, Kroenke was partially responsible for dangerous conditions which injured Patrick.
The Los Angeles Chargers
The complaint names Chargers Football Company, LLC (d/b/a the Los Angeles Chargers) as a defendant, arguing that since they hosted the football game, they had a duty to inspect the stadium for dangerous conditions, ensure the stadium was safe, and warn about any dangerous conditions before the game.
The NFL TV Liaison
The complaint names the NFL TV Liaison who Patrick collided with as a defendant, arguing the liaison should have been near the 20 yard line on the sideline, and not behind a broken yellow line on the sideline where he was when the collision occurred. The complaint also claims that the liaison negligently ran into the path of Patrick.
The complaint names ESPN, Inc. as a defendant, claiming that ESPN was responsible for placing the mat that Patrick stepped on, as well as the cables which feed power to an instant replay monitor.
Roe Mat Company
The complaint names Roe Mat Company as a defendant, the manufacturer of the mat which Patrick stepped on.
Lawsuit Seeks To Recover Damages For Patrick
The lawsuit seeks to recover various damages for Patrick, including:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Other special economic damages
- Pain and suffering
- Lawsuit costs
- Pre-judgment interest in accordance with California Civil Code § 3291
- Any other relief deemed proper by the court
The complaint notes that Patrick’s injury will keep him out for the entirety of the 2022-2023 season and will necessitate surgical intervention, physical therapy, training and rehabilitation. The complaint claims that Patrick’s injury has caused pain and suffering, loss of over half of his salary, emotional distress and economic loss, and that the injury will continue to cause Patrick to suffer emotional distress, pain and suffering “for the foreseeable future.”
The complaint claims Patrick’s injury might affect his employment status for the foreseeable future, will cause him to lose $200,000 to $400,000 in bonuses, will cause him to lose $370,000 in base salary, and will affect his earning capacity and market value as a free agent after the 2023 NFL season.
Lawsuit Alleges That All Defendants Were Negligent
The complaint alleges that Patrick was injured as the result of negligence on the part of every named defendant. California Civil Code § 1714 holds negligent parties financially liable for damages suffered by those injured as a result of the negligence.
The complaint alleges that SoFi Stadium, Hollywood Park Land Company, Stockbridge, The Flesher Group, Kroenke Sports and the Los Angeles Chargers were negligent because:
- The field was unsafe for players when they ran out of bounds
- Electrical cables were placed in an unsafe location
- Unsafe mats were placed over the cables
- They failed to inspect the field for dangerous conditions before the game
- They failed to provide warnings about an unsafe condition before the game
- They failed to train the NFL TV liaison where he was supposed to stand on the sidelines, and failed to ensure he was correctly positioned during the game
- They failed to make sure the players were safe
- They failed to correct dangerous conditions before the game
The complaint alleges that ESPN was negligent because:
- They placed electrical cables, and mats over those cables, in unsafe locations
- They created a dangerous condition
- They failed to conduct a meeting before the game with the officials during which safety hazards would be noticed and dealt with
- They failed to make sure the players were safe
- They failed to warn about a dangerous condition
The complaint alleges that the NFL and the NFL’s TV liaison were negligent because:
- The field was unsafe for players who ran out of bounds
- Electrical cables were placed in an unsafe place
- Unsafe mats were put over the cables
- An inspection of the field for dangerous conditions didn’t take place
- Warnings about an unsafe condition weren’t provided
- The NFL TV liaison wasn’t trained to stand in the right place
- It wasn’t ensured that the TV liaison would be positioned correctly during the game
- The TV liaison ran into the path of Patrick during the play
- Player safety wasn’t ensured
- A meeting didn’t occur before the game during which hazards would be noticed and dealt with
- Dangerous conditions weren’t corrected before the game
The complaint alleges that Roe Mat Company was negligent because:
- They marketed and sold dangerous mats
- They failed to warn about the dangerous risks associated with their mats
Lawsuit Seeks To Recover Damages Based On Premises Liability
The complaint seeks to recover damages from SoFi Stadium, Hollywood Park Land Company, Stockbridge, The Flesher Group, Kroenke Sports and the Los Angeles Chargers based on the cause of action known as premises liability, alleging that Patrick was injured by an unsafe condition. California Civil Jury Instructions No. 1003 states that defendants are liable for injuries when:
• A condition on a property creates an unreasonable risk of injury
• The defendant knew or should have known about the risk
• The defendant failed to fix the condition, protect against harm being caused by the condition, or warn about the condition
The complaint argues that the cables and mat that Patrick stepped on were placed in an unsafe location which created an unreasonable risk of injury to the players. The complaint argues that the defendants knew or should have known the condition was dangerous and created an unreasonable risk of injury to players such as Patrick, and that the defendants failed to fix this condition, warn about it, or protect against harm being caused by it.