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Lack Of Roof Inspection By Cowboys Is A Red Herring

As the reports continue to flow regarding the collapse of the Cowboys’ indoor practice facility during a Saturday storm, there’s one specific development that has far less meaning than the superficial news items might suggest.
Per the Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys failed to have Irving, Texas officials inspect the new roof that was placed on the structure in 2008, five years after it was first built.
 It’s a non-issue, in our view.  If the new roof had been inspected, the folks who inspect such structures for the City of Irving undoubtedly would have done nothing to confirm whether the steel beams under the roof would have survived winds reportedly in the range of only 70 miles per hour.
Implicit in this report is the vague notion that the Cowboys were in some way at fault for this incident.  Barring evidence that Cowboys officials personally designed or built the structure, the Cowboys simply aren’t responsible for what happened.
Moreover, the Cowboys employees injured in the collapse most likely have no recourse against the team apart from the Texas no-fault workers’ compensation system.
It’s a simple proposition.  Once upon a time, employers were flooded with lawsuits resulting from workplace injuries.  And so most states (presumably, every state) created a system for paying employees who suffer injuries while on the job. 
Here the quid pro quo:  The employee gets compensation for medical bills and lost wages and permanent impairment, and the employer receives immunity from a negligence lawsuit.
The primary exception to immunity is intentional conduct, or in some states a high degree of recklessness involving actual knowledge of a specific risk followed by a failure to fix it.
For example, if there were evidence in this case that, after a prior storm involving strong winds, the Cowboys determined that the structure was at risk of falling but opted to ignore the situation, the employees might, depending on the niceties of Texas law, have grounds for pursuing additional relief from the team.
Here, there’s no reason to believe that the Cowboys had any reason to think that the facility would fall, and the focal point of the potential blame for this incident continues to be at this point the company that designed and built the structure.  In our opinion, the question of whether the Cowboys dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” regarding the City of Irving’s permitting process is meaningless in this regard.
UPDATE:  Under Section 408.001 of the Texas workers’ compensation laws, an employer can be sued only if the employee dies and if the accident arose from gross negligence of intentional conduct.  So, basically, the injured employees cannot sue the Cowboys.

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40 Responses to “Lack Of Roof Inspection By Cowboys Is A Red Herring”
  1. mdel1120 says: May 5, 2009 10:27 AM

    If the Cowboys replaced the original roof in 2008 and did NOT have it inspected….how can you say they are not at fault. They are opeing a billion dollar stadium and couldn’t spare the time to have the practice facility inspected. Are you kidding me? Florio, you are a moron and apparently in the Cowboys pockets as well as the rest of Texas.

  2. bored_of_seinfeld_jokes says: May 5, 2009 10:31 AM

    I think your lawyer hat is showing.
    What happened was tragic, but do we really need the play by play on who is culpable?

  3. Pea Tear Griffin says: May 5, 2009 10:31 AM

    Good to know, thanks. I like when you put your lawyer hat on.

  4. DFWtmillaw says: May 5, 2009 10:35 AM

    It does not even appear yet that the Cowboys even needed a permit. Here is a quote from the article discussing the statements made by the city’s planning and inspections director:
    “It was unclear Monday what led the Cowboys to request the reroofing permit last year. Miller said replacing a roof does not require an architect or structural engineer. In the practice facility’s case, Miller said the city’s main concern was that the fabric roof was flame-retardant. City documents indicate that it was.”
    Red Herring……

  5. pimpinnati says: May 5, 2009 10:35 AM

    “Intentional Tort” is the dumb standard that protects employers and gives them zero liability for negligence. I have first hand experience with this standard. It’s completely unfair and absolves businesses from any liability since “intentional tort” is almost impossible to prove.

  6. Vox Veritas says: May 5, 2009 10:36 AM

    Thanks for the info. 70 mph is just 4 mph short of category one hurricane force according the the Saffir-Simpson scale. 73-112 mph is F1 tornado force according to the Fujita scale. Why they named the tornado scale after a Saints linebacker is anybody’s guess.

  7. flamincheney says: May 5, 2009 10:42 AM

    Workman’s Comp is a total scam. Between those on it who are abusing it, and those who have legitimate damages above and beyond the scope of the program, it is completely broken. The only service it provides is to let employers off the hook for all but the most egregious acts of negligence.

  8. alewatcher says: May 5, 2009 10:44 AM

    “It’s a simple proposition. Once upon a time, employers were flooded with lawsuits resulting from workplace injuries. And so most states (presumably, every state) created a system for paying employees who suffer injuries while on the job.
    Here the quid pro quo: The employee gets compensation for medical bills and lost wages and permanent impairment, and the employer receives immunity from a negligence lawsuit.”
    Interestingly enough, Texas is the only state that does not require employers to carry workmans compensation coverage. No idea if the Cowboys carry this coverage or not.

  9. thefatguy says: May 5, 2009 10:46 AM

    Did you research the law here? Or are you just telling us what you think the law probably is? Are you a lawyer? Did you speak with a lawyer who gave you this info?
    I haven’t read the whole story about this new roof. But there very well may be a law that new structures must be inspected before use. It would actually seem to be likely. I’m not sure who built the new roof, but if the Cowboys used a company that was different from the original company they easily could’ve done something to the original structure.
    From what I understand the original structure was determined to be up to code. I’m sure the inspectors knew what to look for. It’s their job. And if they don’t know what to look for then Dallas needs to figure something out because you can’t go around approving buildings that are going to paralyze people. The Cowboys should’ve had the new roof inspected. End of story. Doesn’t necessarily make the whole situation their fault. We’ll find out whether the new roof was the problem soon enough. But if that new roof was the reason for the collapse then you’d wrong in labeling it a “Red Herring”.

  10. mazzith says: May 5, 2009 10:47 AM

    Why are we as a society consumed with trying to blame someone? I am by no means a engineer but I have a common sense. I understand enough to know that if one corner get lived up in the air by the wind it puts WAY more stress on the other 3 supports then intended and throw in getting beat down by 60-70 mph winds that was considered just slightly down from a tornado will = what we have here today, destruction and people hurt.

  11. manninm says: May 5, 2009 10:49 AM

    You could, and I emphasize could, argue that if, by some impossible structural analysis that probably couldn’t happen now that the building’s in a bagillion pieces, it was determined that the new roof was causing irreparable and permanent structural damage to the building (and the Cowboys knew about it), then the Cowboys were negligent. One of those, well, the company that built the structure said we should install this roof, but this one is 20 G’s cheaper, so we’re going to go with this one, even though no tests have been done to ensure this roof won’t cause the building to collapse in, say, in a wind storm.
    I know, a lot of assumptions…I’m just saying…

  12. TheDPR says: May 5, 2009 11:01 AM

    The moral of this story:
    It’s football; it should be both played and practiced outside. Mother Nature knows this. Jerry Jones and many other franchise owners apparently do not.

  13. jlyng says: May 5, 2009 11:03 AM

    Building permits are just a way to increase taxes by re-assesing houses. There is no way and inspector is going up an 8 story tent and finding a problem.

  14. Agamemnon says: May 5, 2009 11:06 AM

    What about the failure to move to a secure location in a severe thunderstorm? Does the Cowboys organization bear any responsibility for this? I can’t imagine this tent would be a safe shelter in a bad weather situation.

  15. ralphthedog says: May 5, 2009 11:06 AM

    You missed one thing: The cowboys are responsible for their actions inside the structure. The building is given a wind rating, ie– it will not fail if the winds remain under 80 miles per hour, or if the wind exceeds 100 mph then the build may fail. If there was a severe storm warning and they failed to act because of that then they can be held libel.
    Besides, when there is a lawsuit and it goes to a jury, you never know what a jury will do. (I picture a person in a wheel chair surrounded by his family, saying how tough it has been for them since the collapse to enjoy family time. I also a man who can no longer do his dream job. I also see pictures of a billion dollar stadium and Jerry Jones at the Kentucky derby.
    Mike, you are an attorney- what do you think?

  16. DJSlyBri says: May 5, 2009 11:09 AM

    You are correct the employees have no recourse against the Cowboys. Which obviously means that whoever designed, constructed, installed, or had anything to do with the practiced bubble will be sued.

  17. EverybodyGotAIDS says: May 5, 2009 11:11 AM

    Not exactly….if the inspection HAD occured, and the event had happened, the city would still be free and clear from blame. You can’t sue a municipality for faulty inspection (regardless of how blatant and obvious the problem was). You can, however, assess blame if an inspection was required and not done. This is negligence, regardless of whether the inspection would or would not have found any problems -the assumption would be that it would. Would it constitute GROSS or INTENTIONAL negligence? Probably not, but the case could be made. You put a guy in a wheelchair in front of a jury, talking about how a big billion dollar organization ruined his life, and you take your chances. The argument could be made that the Cowboys didn’t get the inspection done because they knew or believed that it wouldn’t pass. Is that the case? I don’t know, but that’s why they have juries.

  18. EverybodyGotAIDS says: May 5, 2009 11:18 AM

    Could they sue them under federal law? The damages have to be over $10,000 (or whatever the bottom is)

  19. Vox Veritas says: May 5, 2009 11:19 AM

    Don’t be an idiot, mdel.

  20. Feech says: May 5, 2009 11:19 AM

    If the structure needed a inspection, and likely it did. Then the inspection would need to be done by the Authority having Jurisdiction. How does the AHJ find out if they need to do a inspection? When the licensed contractor pulls a permit. Any speculation that the Cowboys somehow are to blame for this is wrong. They just hire the contractor.

  21. promichael says: May 5, 2009 11:28 AM

    Mike I agree you really have to look at the company that designed
    and built the structure. All across this country there are junior and
    adult tennis programs that take place under a structure similar to
    the one that collapsed. The lights sway under windy conditions.
    70 Mile per hour winds are not even considered to be hurricane
    category winds. Category 1 begins at 74 miles per hour. However
    if someone opens the wrong doors or puts a whole in the structure
    that may contribute to a bubble like structure deflating or coming
    down. That has to be investigated in addition to the company that
    built the structure.

  22. Vox Veritas says: May 5, 2009 11:29 AM

    “If there was a severe storm warning and they failed to act because of that then they can be held libel.”
    I love all these armchair lawyers talking about issues that they can’t even spell. So you’re saying that the Cowboys should have sent everyone outside into the hail and lightning? If somebody had gotten hurt doing that, you’d be here saying that they’re “libel” for sending people out into a bad storm.

  23. ralphthedog says: May 5, 2009 11:47 AM

    Vox,
    Don’t be an ass, I never once suggested that anyone should be send outside.
    I work in a field where weather is monitored at all times. We have to react if there is a storm coming. There are companies who will monitor it for you and call if there is a potential problem. I would bet my last dollar that the cowboys have some sort of weather service provider.
    What I said is that Cowboys could be held libel if there were not tracking the weather, and you never know what a jury will do.

  24. Vox Veritas says: May 5, 2009 11:50 AM

    “You can, however, assess blame if an inspection was required and not done. This is negligence, regardless of whether the inspection would or would not have found any problems -the assumption would be that it would.”
    Any judge that didn’t instruct a jury to keep in mind that lack of inspection does not = presence of a determineable flaw would find the case eventually thrown out or highly subject to overturn on appeal. Any judge that would not vacate a verdict that was based on an assumption that lack of inspection = presense of determineable flaw would be recalled.

  25. Vox Veritas says: May 5, 2009 11:59 AM

    Sorry for just calling you an idiot and leaving it at that, mdel. Here’s why you’re an idiot. The Cowboys may be liable for having the place inspected. You’d have to have arms longer that Wilt Chamberlain’s to make the reach that lack of an inspection caused the facility to fail.

  26. ball-hawk says: May 5, 2009 12:00 PM

    #1: The Cobowys as well as the roofer/builder are both to blame is there was no inspection. I am not sure of the codes, but most states are starting to use roofing codes. The part about not being sue the business is called Workmans Comp…..it is an insurance scam set up by the government!
    #2: If there was NO inspection, then the builder as well as the roofing company can be considered “gross negligent” in this case.
    #3: the point of the winds Vox brought up is a valid point……even though he was trying to prove the Cowboys have done nothing wrong! Well according to code and height of structure in regards to type of wind and weather patterns dictate the type of tie-downs that need to be used on a roof or any structure. In a place known to get high winds, tornadoes, or hurricanes most codes call for hurricane strapping to be used on ALL support structure (i.e Roof truss, beams, studs or whatever else is used).

  27. Outsider says: May 5, 2009 12:05 PM

    lol a non-issue Florio?
    How does failure of getting the roof inspected not fall under gross negligence?
    If you buy a new car, and fail to do preventive maintenance on it, that voids the warranty and your held responsible.
    If the inspectors find out that the roof collapsed because a steal pipe had a 2 year old crack in it, and the roof failed to get inspected in ’08, tell me again how the Cowboys aren’t responsible?
    I am not a lawyer like you Florio, but isn’t this common sense?

  28. EverybodyGotAIDS says: May 5, 2009 12:30 PM

    Outsider, unfortunately common sense is rarely a determining factor in the law. Obviously the Cowboys have some of the blame. They had their guys in a place that collapsed. There’s no question it’s at least PARTIALLY their fault. None at all. The question arises concerning LEGAL responsiblity. I would argue they have some and that if the guys who got injured wanted to sue, they would probably walk away with at least a decent settlement (at the very least because of the P.R.), but who knows?

  29. Vox Veritas says: May 5, 2009 12:35 PM

    “If you buy a new car, and fail to do preventive maintenance on it, that voids the warranty and your held responsible. ”
    Way to compare apples to rosebushes.
    “If the inspectors find out that the roof collapsed because a steal pipe had a 2 year old crack in it, and the roof failed to get inspected in ‘08, tell me again how the Cowboys aren’t responsible?”
    Because that roof wasn’t there two years ago. The first problem with that scenario is proving how old the crack is. The roof was replaced just last year. If it’s reasonable to assume that pipes wouldn’t crack in less than a year’s time, then it falls back on a flaw in design, manufacture, construction or materials. I’m getting the vibe that the wolves are clamoring for a shred of hope that the Cowboys will be held responsible for the injuries, so I will throw you guys the bone that if it’s found that the Cowboys misused the facility, they could be held liable for the collapse, but only if it’s found that the misuse was intentional, and had the intent of compromising the safety of the structure.

  30. dagodfather says: May 5, 2009 12:42 PM

    I’m confused, how are the Cowboys responsible for not getting the roof inspected? Isn’t the county supposed to do that?
    At the end of the day though, I guess it does not matter. Whichever genius decided it would be a good idea to practice in a giant trash bag being held together with steel beams in a thunderstorm with giant hail and near hurricane type winds is an idiot.

  31. am3ricast3am says: May 5, 2009 12:43 PM

    a lot of you are missing what he’s saying. There’s no causation between the cloth roof not being inspected and the steel beams underneath crashing down. Even if it was illegal not to have it inspected you can’t use that as the basis for suing for something else. Jerry Jones may have a dangerous ditch in his front yard, but that wouldn’t be grounds for suing him if one of his players assaulted a fan.

  32. Vox Veritas says: May 5, 2009 12:47 PM

    “Don’t be an ass, I never once suggested that anyone should be send outside.”
    They started outside, moved inside when the weather turned bad as they have done no doubt dozens of times before. You say that they could be liable for failing to act because they have responsibility for what goes on inside the structure, what action do you think they should have taken that does not involve leaving the structure?

  33. bbjay20 says: May 5, 2009 12:55 PM

    Can someone explain why the Cowboys felt a giant tent was a good idea? Why not build an actualy structure like a normal building that would hold up better in high winds?

  34. WolfgangK says: May 5, 2009 1:00 PM

    Is this the Cowboys’ only indoor practice facility?
    I guess I was mostly surprised upon hearing this news that they didn’t have a proper building-facility, but a oversized tent. Is this typical in the south for NFL teams? Sort of shocked that the Cowboys don’t have the latest and greatest temperature controlled(and a billion other fancy technologies), soundly built indoor facility. Texas does have more than it’s share of tornados, after all.
    The Packers built the Hutson Center like 15 years ago now, I though that kind of facility was standard practice for almost all NFL teams. (I’m not making any kind of commentary about the Packers vs. the Cowboys or any other org. in the league, I just know their facility, I’m sure many other teams have similar and better facilities.)

  35. Vox Veritas says: May 5, 2009 1:04 PM

    “even though he was trying to prove the Cowboys have done nothing wrong”
    Not really. More that they can’t be held liable. Whether they actually did anything wrong or not may never be determined, but I’m going to side with logic. Jerry Jones is not a penny-pincher. He’s shouldering all but $325 million of the cost of the new stadium. He’s paid players their full salary when he didn’t have to (like when Erik Williams jacked himself up while driving drunk in 1994) and refused offers of millions from at least one player that felt that he couldn’t live up to the contract he signed (when Kevin Smith popped his Achilles tendon in ’95 less than 48 hours after signing a contract extension and offered to give his signing bonus back) and even letting local media types that rarely have good words about the Cowboys use his private jet during a family emergency (Norm Hitzges). He’s not going to replace a perfectly good roof that did pass inspection with one that he knows won’t pass. I’m not saying he’s the best thing since sliced bread, but it just doesn’t make sense that a guy that otherwise spares no expense would want the source of 99% of his wealth to practice in a substandard facility.

  36. Vox Veritas says: May 5, 2009 1:10 PM

    “Can someone explain why the Cowboys felt a giant tent was a good idea?”
    Same reason the Giants, Patriots, Texans, same as anybody would. It’s cost-effective.

  37. EverybodyGotAIDS says: May 5, 2009 1:12 PM

    They started outside, moved inside when the weather turned bad as they have done no doubt dozens of times before. You say that they could be liable for failing to act because they have responsibility for what goes on inside the structure, what action do you think they should have taken that does not involve leaving the structure?
    ________________________
    That’s really disingenuous. They had access to weather reports. Weather isn’t a mystery anymore. It’s like the people of New Orleans screaming “WE DIDN’T KNOW!!”. Oh come on. Big hurricaine coming right on top of your city…which happens to be below sea level…with several days notice…it’s time to go. Same situation with the Cowboys. Weather condusive to microbursts…crappy tent….it’s time to go. Now I don’t know the weather reports they received, but if they either a) Didn’t bother to check or b) Ignored any reports that said they might experience severe weather…well crap, I don’t know what else you need to prove negligence. That’s the definition. They knew there was a risk and didn’t act as a reasonable person would.
    Granted, I’m sure the “reasonable person” standard is different in Texas…but up here, we would have gone into a real building, not some glorified tent (which, as I read more about it, is what it sounds like)

  38. thc0916 says: May 5, 2009 1:21 PM

    Lack of inspection is not a fault of the Dallas Cowboys organization or the contractor that replaced the roof if a permit from the County was required to accomplish the roof replacement. I can’t for the life of me see how a permit would not be required, so I assume a permit was pulled. The permit for construction is acquired by the contractor, not the Cowboys, however, neither the Cowboys nor the contractor can tell the county inspector when to inspect the facility. The county inspector is given date of completion by the contractor and inspects when they get around to it. Also, most, if not all, construction projects are inspected many times throughout the process of construction.

  39. Kevin from Philly says: May 5, 2009 3:50 PM

    Doesn’t matter if the Cowboys get sued or not, Mike. There’ll be plenty of other people that get sued over this – the lawyers won’t go hungry this summer.

  40. ronmexico says: May 5, 2009 8:44 PM

    “It’s like the people of New Orleans screaming “WE DIDN’T KNOW!!”. Oh come on. Big hurricaine coming right on top of your city…which happens to be below sea level…with several days notice…it’s time to go. Same situation with the Cowboys. ”
    Hardly the same situation, you ‘tard. You’re given a couple days warning for a hurricane. A microburst can happen in a split second. I doubt this is the first time ANY team has practiced in a bubble during a storm. How many hurricanes a year do we have? OK, now how many microbursts per year do you know of that we have without looking it up? It’s a freak accident, Potsy. Give it a rest.

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