Last month, linebacker Aaron Patrick suffered a torn ACL as he tried to avoid colliding with an individual on the sidelines of a Monday night game between the Broncos and the Chargers. Patrick has now sued various entities for the harm caused by the injury.
Patrick has sued the NFL, ESPN, the Rams, the Chargers, and other entities, in civil court in Los Angeles.
The lawsuit alleges negligence in the placement of mats covering cords and cables that led to the feed for the league’s replay monitor. Patrick alleges that his foot rolled on one of the mats as he tried not to slam into the NFL’s “green hat” TV liaison.
Patrick’s complaint also contends that ownership of the venue owed a duty of care to those with access to the field, and that ownership allowed an unsafe condition to exist on those premises.
Patrick has sued anyone and everyone connected to the situation. While some may call that excessive, it’s prudent. The only way to get to the truth is to blame everyone who arguably was responsible, and hope that they’ll try to blame each other. Eventually, a jury will decide which of the defendants are to blame.
Obviously, Patrick bears no blame. He was simply doing his job — and trying not to wipe out a worker who was in his path.
Patrick lost half of his salary for the bulk of the season, a consequence of a so-called “split” contract, which limits his compensation if placed on injured reserve. He also allegedly has lost an opportunity to earn player performance bonuses and non-covered medical expenses. He seeks compensation for his pain and suffering.
The obvious response by the league, the Chargers, and the Rams will be that any potential claims are covered by the arbitration clause of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. In a press release announcing the lawsuit, Patrick’s counsel explains that the lawsuit will challenge the CBA, claiming that it does not contain a valid and binding arbitration agreement, that it doesn’t provide sufficient notice of the waiver of state-court access, and that the CBA provides no real basis for recovery for injuries suffered via non-contact injuries.
Patrick also attacks the CBA itself, calling it “unconscionable due to the disparity between the NFL and the players.” (That’s a direct shot at the NFL Players Association, which negotiated the agreement on behalf of the players.)
ESPN and other non-NFL defendants won’t be able to try to push the case to arbitration. Frankly, ESPN would have an interest in supporting Patrick’s effort to keep the case in court. That, however, would not mesh with ESPN’s overall business interests, as it relates to ESPN’s broadcast partnership with the NFL.