Former Houston Texans punter Brett Hartmann filed a lawsuit today in State District Court of Harris County, Texas against the owners of Reliant Stadium (Harris County Convention & Sports Corporation) and the management company who operates the stadium (SMG). Hartmann tore his ACL and fractured his fibula during a December 4th, 2011 game against the Atlanta Falcons when his foot was caught in a seam of the grass turf. According to the complaint, there was no contact on the play and the injury was so devastating that Hartmann’s career is in jeopardy.
Reliant Stadium contains a grass field which is generally regarded to be safer than a turf field. The complaint disagrees with this sentiment stating:
“Inexplicably, rather than letting the grass grow on the field in one “piece” as it is at most other NFL stadiums utilizing grass, the turf for Reliant Stadium is transported into the stadium in ‘8×8’ pieces, known as “trays”, thus including innumerable seams and uneven partitions.”
The complaint goes on to note that Reliant Stadium uses 1,250 grass trays while other stadiums using grass, such as the Arizona Cardinals stadium, use only a single tray that eliminates seams and uneven partitions and that fellow Texans Andre Johnson and Brian Cushing were also injured on non-contact plays during the same game.
The complaint alleges three causes of action: Negligence, Negligence under the Texas Tort Claims Act, and Vicarious Liability. The gist of the claims is that Hartmann was an invitee to Reliant Stadium and because of this, the defendants owed a legal duty to Hartmann to reduce or eliminate any unreasonable risks of harm to the premises. The Defendants breached their duty by allowing the field to become dangerous which caused the injury.
Brett Hartmann had previously been suspended by the NFL on two occasions for violating its substance abuse policy and is currently a free agent.
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