Former New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush has recently filed a lawsuit against the city of St. Louis when he slipped on uncovered concrete and suffered a season-ending injury. Reggie’s lawsuit claims the city of St. Louis was negligent in allowing this section of exposed concrete at the Edward Jones Dome to remain uncovered.
"Negligence" is a legal term of art that has a specific meaning. Generally, in order to succeed in a case for negligence, you have to prove four things:
- the person you are suing owed a duty to you,
- they breached that duty,
- you were injured, and
- your injury was a direct result of their breach.
When you are on someone else’s property, the duty they owe to you depends on your legal classification. There are three "classes" a person could fall into: an invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser. Obviously, Reggie Bush would not be considered a trespasser of the Edward Jones Dome, so the question becomes whether he is an invitee or licensee. Without getting into the details of why, Reggie Bush would most likely be considered an invitee because he was on the premises to do work for the benefit of the landowner.
The duty owed to an invitee is the highest duty a landowner can owe someone on their property. To put it simply: the duty the stadium owed to Reggie Bush was a duty to inspect the premises, make them reasonably safe, and to warn of any dangers.
Reggie Bush was clearly injured, and that injury was a result of a lack of padding on the "concrete ring of death" (as his lawsuit so aptly names the exposed area). For Reggie to succeed in his lawsuit, he would generally need to prove that the exposed area of concrete was inherently and unreasonably dangerous and that he was not warned about that danger.
Whether or not Reggie was warned is pretty simple. Were there signs posted, etc? His case will turn on whether the condition of the concrete at the time was inherently and unreasonably dangerous. The attorneys for the City of St. Louis will try to argue the cost to make the condition completely safe outweighed the small chance an injury would occur. Moreover, the injury to Reggie Bush, while unfortunate, was just a freak accident that could not have been avoided absent an unreasonable burden on the stadium. Yes, the stadium have since covered the exposed concrete with padding to prevent future incidents. And yes, Reggie’s case was not the first such incident to occur here. However, both facts have limited uses at trial.
The Federal Rules of Evidence prevent subsequent remedial measures from being admitted at trial. This is to not discourage individuals from trying to prevent future injuries, whether they were at fault or not for a previous injury. The new padding can be admissible to show the cost it took to make the condition less dangerous. Prior similar occurences are also not admissible to show a pattern of liability because juries could get confused about facts. Josh McCown's previous injury could be admissible to show notice, though; that is, the stadium, if not before McCown’s injury then definitely after, was aware of the condition and the risk it posed, and should have remedied the situation.
So what will happen? Reggie Bush has a very good case. Will he win? Well that just depends how good all of the lawyers are for both sides. No matter what, this is another terrible situation for St. Louis, having just lost their football team to the City of Angels. When it rains, it pours, right?
Like most cases in the American legal system, I fully expect this case to be settled out of court. As the case progresses, I will post my legal analysis along the way, so stay tuned for updates. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Send me presents.