We have often discussed the worsening environment at football games for people who want to just watch the game with family and friends. American football is going the way of soccer with drunk and obnoxious fans ruining the games with continual profanity, fighting, and taunting. Rob Hopkins, a Buffalo Bills fan, is the poster boy for this trend. Hopkins decided to slide down the upper deck railing without any thought of the people below him. He fell from the upper deck on to a fan seated in the section below during the game against the New York Jets. The shoulder injury from the 30 foot fall is now the least of his problems. He has been banned from the stadium, fired from his job, and could be looking at a criminal charge. All for being a certifiable idiot.
The first response came from Hopkins’ favorite team. The feeling is not mutual. Bills’ President and CEO Russ Brandon issued a statement that
“The irresponsible behavior that occurred at yesterday’s game by the fan who fell from the upper deck is a violation of our Fan Code of Conduct and cannot, and will not, be tolerated. This individual will not be permitted back into Ralph Wilson Stadium. The vast majority of our fans who attend Bills home games at Ralph Wilson Stadium do so in a responsible manner and we continue to work diligently to eliminate those individuals who violate our Fan Code of Conduct from game days at our stadium. We are cooperating with the Erie County Sheriff’s Office during their investigation of this incident and we want to extend our best wishes for a speedy recovery to the fan who was injured in the 200 level.”
A person in the stadium tweeted the picture to the left and claimed that it is the man who fell from the upper deck. Hopkins reportedly assured everyone after his fell that he was okay. His victim was not. Both ultimately had to go to the hospital. The victim clearly has a tort actions against Hopkins for negligence and even battery under a substantial certainty or reckless conduct theory of intent.
The victim could also sue the stadium for the lack of barrier protections in the upper deck. That can be a more difficult case since no team can entirely protect against idiots like Hopkins without blocking the view and movement of fans. Falling fans are a recurring problem for stadiums as with the case with the recent death at a Braves game. Some of these cases involve children who fall from upper decks. This litigation includes lawsuits by fans injured by other falling fans as in the case involving the Bengals.
Hopkins may also face criminal charges. The most likely would be misdemeanor charges of third-degree assault or reckless endangerment. If so, he will do so as an unemployed person. He was the art director at Eric Mower and Associates, a Buffalo advertising and public relations agency. The company issued a statement that “EMA is very concerned about Sunday’s incident at the Buffalo Bills’ game and we are relieved that the injured were released from the hospital. Rob Hopkins is no longer employed by EMA.”