Fans sue in railing collapse
Four were among those hurt in Jan. 2 accident at FedEx Field
WASHINGTON — Four people injured at a game at FedEx Field because of a railing collapse sued the Washington Commanders and three other defendants on Friday, each seeking awards in excess of $75,000.
According to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of Maryland, the four plaintiffs — New Jersey residents Michael Naimoli, Morgan French, Andrew Collins and Marissa Santarlasci — are still receiving medical treatment for injuries stemming from their falls on Jan. 2. They’re seeking compensatory damages for their injuries, loss of income and medical expenses, plus punitive damages in an amount to be determined by the court.
The Commanders are named as defendants along with WFI Stadium, Inc., the corporation led by Daniel Snyder that owns FedEx Field; Contemporary Services Corporation, which staffs security and ushers at FedEx Field; and Company Does, a group of subcontractors believed to offer design and upkeep services for the facility, according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs claim they suffered injuries that include muscle strains, bone contusions, headaches, cuts and other “potential long-term effects, both physical and emotional.”
The Commanders and the NFL declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The incident occurred after most fans and players had left FedEx Field following Washington’s Week 17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Jalen Hurts, the Eagles
quarterback, had just completed on-field interviews and was headed back through the north tunnel toward the visitors’ locker room. A crowd of fans awaited him at the tunnel, many leaning against the railing. As Hurts passed, the railing tumbled to the ground, along with multiple fans, and the quarterback stepped to the side, avoiding injury. He stayed behind to help those who fell.
A team spokesperson said that evening that the area is the stadium’s ADA-accessible section. It’s designed to hold up to six people in wheelchairs and their companions, but not a large contingent of fans.
According to the complaint, the plaintiffs not only “sought and gained permission” from CSC before entering the area around the tunnel, but were also guided to the railing where players filtered through to get to the locker room. They claim there was no signage or warning of a safety hazard, and they ended up falling five to 10 feet.
“To our knowledge, everyone involved was offered on-site medical evaluation and left the stadium of their own accord,” a team official said the evening of Jan. 2. “We’re very glad no one appears to have been seriously injured. The safety of our fans and guests is of the utmost importance, and we are looking into what occurred.”
The team spokesperson added that Washington had been in communication with the league and was doing a full investigation. The spokesperson also said respondents from Prince George’s County EMS were at the scene within five minutes to assist those who requested medical evaluation, and two people were treated.
The plaintiffs, however, allege they were “physically and forcefully directed and shuttled back up over the wall” and were instructed by CSC to “get the f—- out of the stadium.” They also claim that any suggestion that no one was injured in the incident or that stadium representatives took appropriate action is “patently false.”
“All of this was avoidable,” Robert D. Sokolove, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said. “What is going to keep these defendants from doing this again and again unless they’re taught a lesson?”
Two days after the railing collapse, Hurts sent a letter to the NFL and the team about their intended follow-up to the incident. Hurts shared his concerns about safety and requested to know what safeguards would be put in place to prevent another collapse. A team spokesperson said Washington president Jason Wright responded to Hurts via email.
“While I displayed a calm composure, I understand the severity of what happened and am extremely concerned for the well-being of the fans and media,” Hurts wrote. “As a result, I would like to know what safeguards the NFL and the Washington Football Team are implementing to prevent this from ever occurring in the future.”