As we are less than one month away from the kickoff to the first week of the new NFL season – we report on the case of Wrobel v. Doe where plaintiff, a Miami Dolphins fan, was allegedly assaulted by Buffalo Bills fans in the stands at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Plaintiff alleges that during a Dolphins-Bills game (Bills won 19-14), he was sitting in his seat when plaintiff felt a punch to the head and he was attacked by three men. Plaintiff suffered an injury to his knee and he brought suit against (among numerous parties) the Buffalo Bills and the security company hired to police the stadium. The lower court dismissed the case against the defendants and the plaintiff appealed.
The Appellate Division Fourth Department ruled that the conduct of the Bills and the County was not a proximate cause of his injuries and that an independent act far removed from the allegedly negligent conduct of the Bills and the County, the assailants’ unprovoked criminal assault broke the causal nexus between such allegedly negligent conduct and plaintiff’s injury. The attack was extraordinary and not foreseeable or preventable in the normal course of events.
The Fourth Department further stated ““[i]t is difficult to understand what measures could have been undertaken to prevent plaintiff’s injury except presumably to have had a security officer posted at the precise location where the incident took place or wherever rival football fans were gathered, surely an unreasonable burden.”
The Fourth Department affirmed the lower Court’s decision because the plaintiff could not prove that the defendants were on notice of any negligent behavior of the fans and the assault was unprovoked and defendants were not liable for the independent acts of the fans that caused plaintiff’s injury.
Thanks to Paul W. Vitale for her contribution to this post.