- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Four people who were injured after a railing collapsed at FedEx Field last season are suing the Washington Commanders for $300,000 in damages. 

The lawsuit, filed Friday in the U.S. District Court of Maryland, is seeking $75,000 per person in damages, including “loss of income, medical expenses, pain and suffering.”

The incident occurred after the Commanders’ loss to the Eagles at FedEx Field on Jan. 2. As Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts ran off the field, a broken railing sent several Eagles fans crashing into the tunnel. 

“They want to be reimbursed for their injuries, both physical and emotional,” attorney Bob Sokolove told The Washington Times. “The team’s public stance is of no [wrongdoing], but that’s flat out untrue.”

“The team has taken this public posture of no harm, no foul, that nothing really happened. But that’s just not true. I think the one way to get their attention is to file a lawsuit and make them own up,” Sokolove added.

The plaintiffs — New Jersey residents Michael Naimoli, Morgan French, Andrew Collins and Marissa Santarlasci — claim in the complaint that they are still receiving medical treatment for injuries suffered in the fall. They claim the injuries include: cervical strains, bone contusions, headaches and muscle strains. 

“Each of them suffered fairly substantial injuries in different parts of their bodies,” Sokolove said. “One of them, their head and neck is pretty bad. And one woman, her leg got caught in the railing … and it got torqued and twisted.”

The Washington Commanders declined comment. 

In addition to the team, the other defendants on the suit are: WFI Stadium, Inc., the Dan Snyder-led corporation that owns FedEx Field; Contemporary Services Corporation (CSC), which employs the security at the stadium; and Company Does, which the lawsuit says are contractors that provide “maintenance and design services” for the team. 

The broken railing incident capped off another ignominious campaign for FedEx Field, recently ranked as the worst stadium in the NFL by USA Today. The multiple videos of fans falling a significant distance and piling onto the ground went viral on social media. 

“To our knowledge, everyone involved was offered onsite medical evaluation and left the stadium of their own accord,” Washington said in a statement after the incident. 

The team offering medical treatment is a claim the plaintiffs called “patently false” in the lawsuit.  

“The defendants, with all of their resources, had every way of reaching out and finding our clients,” Sokolove said. “They didn’t reach out to any of the four of them and learn how they were doing. It’s almost a year later, and nothing. Crickets.”

After the incident, a team official told ESPN that the area the fans were located did not have seats and instead was for people with disabilities. The railing, which was held together with a zip tie, was not meant to have people leaning on it, but the plaintiffs claim CSC employees told the fans they could stand there. 

“The occurrence of this railing failure and ultimate fall by the Plaintiffs, many feet below, onto the concrete floor of the tunnel, was a foreseeable condition which was known, or should have been known, to all Defendants in this case,” reads the lawsuit. “… At no time did any Defendants advise the Plaintiffs and others to avoid leaning against the railing.”

Additionally, the fans are claiming they were “physically and forcefully” pushed over the wall and told to “get the f— out of the stadium” after the incident. 

The plaintiffs aren’t the only ones who were unhappy about the incident. A few days after the game, Hurts, who nearly had his lower body taken out by the falling fans, wrote a letter to the NFL demanding that actions be taken at FedEx Field after the “near-tragic” accident.

“Although I was able to prevent the barrier from crashing onto me, that was not the same for others who could be suffering from lingering injuries,” 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.”

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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