Four fans have taken legal action against the Washington Commanders and three other accused of gross negligence after a railing fell on them after a game against the Philadelphia Eagles last season.
The lawsuit was filed Friday in federal court in Maryland by plaintiffs Andrew Collins, Morgan French, Michael Naimoli and Marissa Santarlasci. All four fans still claim medical treatment for cuts, bruises and muscle injuries after falling onto the pitch due to the collapse of the barrier.
The fans, who all live in New Jersey, are each claiming more than $75,000 in damages for their injuries, loss of income and medical bills, as well as punitive costs. The Washington Post.
The lawsuit names the franchise, the company that owns the rights to the stadium and a large crowd security service, as defendants. Daniel Snyder, owner of Washington Commanders, also owns FedEx Field.
‘Suspects knew, or should have known, that extreme pressure’ [from the weight of leaning fans] would be placed on the railing between where the fans, including the plaintiffs, were and the tunnel underneath,” the lawsuit reads.
The Contemporary Services Corporation was the security company at the Commanders’ home game.
Four NFL fans in New Jersey on Friday charged the Washington Commanders and three other defendants with gross negligence for the railing collapse.
Fans grounded for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) after a railing collapsed at FedEx Field on Jan. 2 as the Commanders lost 16-20
The collapse of the barricade occurred on January 2 after the Eagles’ victory over the commanders, 20-16. Footage from the incident shows a series of Eagles fans going overboard and falling 5-10 feet as quarterback Jalen Hurts walks through the tunnel. They all ended up on concrete.
The 2020 NFL Draft pick avoided the railing and calmly helped some injured fans to their feet. Mark Tenally, a sports photographer for The Associated Press standing by the railing, was injured and received medical attention. It is believed that he is not part of the lawsuit.
On January 4 — two days after the incident — Hurts wrote a letter to the NFL and the commanders asking “what follow-up action is being considered.”
“I tried to handle the situation with a lot of balance and to show compassion for the people who fell, I really did, but it could have been so much worse,” the 24-year-old told both organizations.
“It only dawned on me after I had time to think about it and think about it, so I just wanted to see what could be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That’s all I really care about. That is a very tragic incident and it could have been much, much worse, but I don’t want it to happen again.”
The commanders later replied that at that time and “to our knowledge, all those involved received medical examinations at the scene and left the stadium on their own initiative.”
“We are very pleased that no one appears to be seriously injured,” the January statement said. “The safety of our fans and guests is of the utmost importance and we have investigated what happened.”
Two days after the railing incident, Eagles quarterback Hurts signed a letter to the NFL and its commanders, asking “what follow-up action is being considered.”
Hurts further stressed to the league that he does not want a similar incident to happen again and that the January incident was “a very tragic incident and it could have been much, much worse.”
Injured fans were outraged by the commanders’ response, with Naimoli labeling the team’s statement as “completely false” and that no medical assistance had been provided.
‘Everyone takes the F off the field,’ and [they] quickly grabbed us away from Jalen and shoved us into the stands,” said the Sicklerville resident, who is engaged to French, ESPN.
“They didn’t ask if anyone was injured, and for God’s sake they didn’t ask if anyone needed medical attention,” recalls Collins, 26. “All the staff said to us was to get the F off the field.”
Naimoli, who was wearing a green Hurts jersey at the time of the incident, claimed to have previously felt neck and arm pain, ESPN reported. He also said his hand was shaking after being trapped under the barricade.
He was treated later the day of the collapse at Inspira Medical Center in Mullica Hill, New Jersey, and had to wear a neck brace while waiting for treatment. Naimoli was later treated for a cervical strain, an unspecified head injury and bruises to his knees and elbows.
Collins recalled having lower back pain and pulling on a groin, while Santarlasci and French had bruises on their legs as a result of the fall.
“I was the last one to fall,” French recalled to ESPN, elaborating on a bruise from her waist to her knee. “I was on top of everyone, so I quickly jumped up, and the guard literally pulled me up by my two arms and took me off the field. I didn’t have time to process. I was more in shock.’
Co-owner Dan Snyder has yet to comment on Friday’s filing of the lawsuit
A spokesman for the commanders later clarified that fans were stuffing an area of FedEx field designated for disabled people, including wheelchair users, and that the railing that collapsed was not designed to support the weight of a large crowd.
However, the group argued that they were allowed access to the designated area by a security member and that no signs in the restricted area indicated it was reserved for people with disabilities.
‘The guard at the bottom, we’ [asked] him, “Can we go there?” And he said, “Yes,” Naimoli told ESPN. “If the Washington Football Team wants to come out and say the area is restricted, there was no documentation at all. The one guard standing right in front of that area swept us in there and said, “Okay, go ahead to the tunnel.”
The Washington Commanders and the NFL have yet to comment on the lawsuit.