The victory of the Bears over the Eagles yesterday was marred by the death of a fan at Soldier Field — the second recent death at a major sporting event this month. The man has been identified as Stewart Haverty, 23.
The man fell from a ledge around 4:55 p.m. on Sunday. Witnesses say the man ran to the ledge and jumped — landing on a small rooftop. He was in his 20s.
Stadium falls are not uncommon, but the Bears are benefited legally by the accounts of the man’s running to the ledge. This would obviously raise an assumption of the risk defense. As we have previously discussed, however, there are an increasing number of cases involving “dram shop” type challenges.
A more difficult case could emerge from the tragic death on November 21st of Lucas Anthony Tang, 2, who was able to climb over a glass barrier to plummet to his death at the Staples Center. The boy had just taken pictures with the family after the game and somehow got over the barrier — falling 30 feet.
The stadium has to anticipate over-excited and inebriated fans in designing such barriers. For a 2-year-old to make it over a barrier is particularly worrisome. The stadium could counter with a contributory or comparative negligence claim in the failure to watch the child as a defense.
Notre Dame also recently had a recent death when Declan Sullivan, 20, fell thirty feet after a scissor lift collapsed. He was filming a Fighting Irish football practice and even tweeted before the accident about its dangers. His first tweet joked “Gusts of wind up to 60 mph. Well today will be fun at work. I guess I’ve lived long enough.” His second tweet was shorter and more ominous: “Holy —. Holy —. This is terrifying.”
Forty-five minutes later the tower collapsed and landed in the outside street.
A wrongful death case could cost Notre Dame a great deal of money. While the tweets can be used to establish contributory or comparative negligence, it also shows that the student should not have been sent up to the perch in a windstorm with 50 mile an hour winds. Even if he is found 20 percent at fault, it could cost the university millions.
Notre Dame officials including head coach Brian Kelly, Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick and others will face years of depositions and litigation. Swarbrick in particular will have a hard time since he was only 20 to 30 yards away when Sullivan fell.