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Thursday, May 07, 2009
Who's Responsible for Collapse of Cowboys' Practice Facility?

Earlier this week, I wrote a column on on questions of responsibility for the tragic collapse of the Dallas Cowboys' practice facility. Below is an excerpt.

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The second and more worrisome area for the Cowboys is tort law and specifically Texas law on negligence. Negligence refers to unreasonable behavior, be it the form of carelessness or inattentiveness.

Whether the Cowboys behaved negligently could be examined from multiple perspectives. Here are a few:

• Did the Cowboys construct an adequately safe facility for the typical weather conditions found in Irving, Texas, this time of the year?

• How typical or atypical were the specific weather conditions experienced by the facility when it collapsed? If the stadium was designed and constructed to withstand winds in excess of 100 miles per hour, does its failure to do so suggest substandard maintenance on the part of the facility's operators, the Cowboys?

• How much warning did the Cowboys have about the inclement weather May 2, and would a reasonable employer in that situation have cancelled practice?

• Did any Cowboys' personnel have knowledge or insight that the five-year-old facility could have been at risk of collapsing during stiff winds. If so, did the team do anything with this information?

• Did the injured persons have notice about the structure's apparent shortcomings -- could the injured persons have been comparatively negligent for their own injuries? (Texas, like most other states, uses a system of comparative negligence, meaning if a plaintiff is partly responsible for his/her own injury, he or she cannot recover for the percent of damages attributable to the his or her own negligence).

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To read the rest, click here. I appreciate several writers discussing the column, including Charleston School of Law Professor Sheila B. Scheuerman on Torts Prof Blog, John-Jacques Taylor of the Dallas Morning News, and Mile High Report. Also, for more torts-talk, Harvard Law School Professor Jon Hanson and I recently published our law review article Situationist Torts.


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