PHILADELPHIA — A state appeals court has vacated a $700,000 personal injury verdict stemming from a bathroom fight at a Philadelphia Eagles football game.
Dallas Cowboys fan Patrick Pearson sued the Philadelphia Eagles, the Eagles stadium operator and security firm Executive Services Management after he was injured at Lincoln Financial Field in December 2014. After a Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas judge denied the defendants’ motions for summary judgment, the trial jury found the team and stadium 50 percent responsible for Pearson’s injury through negligence, assigned 30 percent of the blame to the security force’s negligence and 20 percent to Pearson directly, awarding him $700,000 in damages.
Following post-trial motions, the court awarded Pearson delay damages of $10,897 from the team and stadium and $6,156 from the security firm. The court denied the team and stadium operator’s post-trial motions, prompting their appeal to the Superior Court, which issued its opinion Oct. 11. Mary Murray wrote the opinion. Judge Gene Strassburger filed a concurring opinion. Judge Dan Pellegrini joined both opinions.
“The duty to protect business invitees against third-party conduct arises only if the owner has reason to anticipate such conduct,” Murray wrote, meaning the appropriate question is if there had been prior incidents in stadium bathrooms that would have made it clear the importance of staging security officers in those areas.
The panel pointed to testimony from security worker Brian Beppel and James Hayslip, the Eagles’ director of facility security, that restroom fights were so infrequent, over a 14-year period, it wasn’t prudent to deploy staff resources to those locations.
“The record shows that incidents of violent assaults or fighting in the restrooms were a rare occurrence,” Murray wrote. “At best, Pearson can argue [the Eagles] should have had in place a different security program or additional security personnel available on the night of Pearson’s injury. Such an argument, however, is not a basis for a finding of negligence.”
Pearson also said it is a known danger to, as he did, wear clothing supporting the opponent to an Eagles game. But the panel noted the team addresses that issue by dressing undercover security employees as fans of the visiting team.
Determining the trial court should have granted the team’s motion for summary judgment, the panel vacated the ruling in favor of Pearson, reversed an order denying the team’s motion for judgment regardless of the jury verdict and remanded the matter to the trial court to enter judgment in favor of the team.
In Strassburger’s concurring opinion, he wrote that the appeals panel correctly applied state law but reiterated his previous concerns about the limitations of the premises liability law as “fundamentally unfair to injured customers.”