Judge Defends $700K Verdict in Case Over Bathroom Altercation at Eagles Game

Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles.

A Philadelphia judge has asked the Pennsylvania Superior Court to affirm a $700,000 jury verdict and the award of delay damages in the case of a Dallas Cowboys fan who alleged he was jumped by Philadelphia Eagles fans in the bathroom of Lincoln Financial Field.

Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Teresa Sarmina, in response to 14 issues raised by the defendants in post-trial motions, wrote in her opinion that the jury's verdict was sound, based on the evidence, and that a new trial in plaintiff Patrick Pearson's lawsuit was not warranted.

Pearson sued the Philadelphia Eagles LLC, the owner of the Eagles' stadium (Eagles Stadium Operators LLC), and the security agency handling public safety during the Dec. 14, 2014, Eagles-Cowboys game. According to Sarmina, Pearson went to the game decked out in Cowboys attire, and was jeered while in line for the restroom. He was subsequently attacked by unruly Eagles fans, Sarmina said.

The plaintiff was sent to the hospital for a fractured ankle, which required two surgeries. In his claims against the security company, Apex, Pearson alleged the agency negligently failed to properly ensure the safety of attendees.

A jury ultimately sided with Pearson and awarded him $700,000. The court also granted roughly $10,000 in delay damages.

Apex disputed that it breached a duty of care owed to Pearson to keep him safe. However, Sarmina said the jury's finding of negligence against the company was reasonable because Apex should have been ready for potential danger.

"It is foreseeable that, at a sporting event, when fans are drinking and engaging in enthusiastic banter and cheering for their teams, tensions may run high," Sarmina said. "This was actually anticipated by defendant Apex, which had deployed undercover operatives wearing jerseys like appellee's throughout the stadium on the day appellee was attacked, to identify Eagles fans who were harassing fans of the opposing team."

She continued, "It was foreseeable that altercations could take place in the bathroom, and appellants own agent was aware of this, as evidenced by ... testimony at trial. It was reasonable for the jury to conclude that, because appellant failed to provide a safe environment to appellee, and because he was attacked in one of the blind spots to the security provided—the bathroom—his injuries were proximately caused by their negligence."

Andrew J. Connolly, chair of Post & Schell's construction defect/injury litigation group, represents the defendants and declined to comment, citing the active appeal.

Norristown-based attorney Matthew Noble, who represents Pearson, also declined to comment on Sarmina's opinion.