Pro athletes seem to be awfully litigious these days. We recently discussed the exercise ball products liability lawsuit filed by Francisco Garcia of the Sacramento Kings. Well, as we mentioned last week, former Houston Texans’ punter Brett Hartmann has filed a lawsuit over a 2011 knee injury that he blames on the turf grass of Houston’s Reliant Stadium.
We have a few more thoughts on this lawsuit that we could not resist sharing. We can’t seem to leave these professional sports cases alone, can we?
Hartmann sued venue-management company SMG and the Harris County Convention and Sports Corporation. Notably, the suit doesn’t name the Texans as defendants. Hartmann claims poor field conditions at Reliant Stadium caused a leg injury last year that could end his career. Hartmann allegedly caught his foot between two pallets of grass on the field and tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) as a result. The lawsuit says several doctors have told Hartmann that his knee remains “unstable” and that he needs “additional surgery, possibly quite extensive.”
The lawsuit alleges the natural grass surface in Reliant Stadium is transported into the stadium in 8-by-8-foot trays for games, which allegedly creates “innumerable seams and uneven partition” in which an athlete can step and become injured. Most other stadiums with natural grass surfaces have a single uninform surface that permanently remains in the stadium.
Typically, sports injury cases are tough to win because a player is said to have assumed the risk of injury by participating in the sporting contest. For instance, if you step out onto an NFL field with Ray Lewis, and he decapitates you with a violent hit, that’s just an occupational hazard. However, this case is somewhat different than your typical sports injury case because it is alleged that a defective or unsafe playing surface caused the injury. It is difficult to say that player assumes the risk of a defective playing surface. Think about that for a moment.
We’d love to see the trial. The potential witnesses include Bill Belichick and Tony Dungy. The lawsuit claims Belichick has called Reliant Stadium’s turf “terrible” and “inconsistent” following an injury to Wes Welker in 2009. Dungy is quoted as stating that the Indianapolis Colts were “definitely concerned about the injury factor” when playing at Reliant Stadium.
We’ll keep you posted on this one.