The Case of Patrick Edwards

If you’ve been watching ESPN SportsCenter, or listening to sports talk radio, then you’ve either seen or heard of the injury suffered last night by Patrick Edwards of the University of Houston. If you haven’t seen it, and for purposes of the discussion to follow, here it is:

Edwards is a 20-year-old redshirt freshman wide receiver for the Houston Cougars. He has 46 receptions for 634 yards and four touchdowns. He is also finished for the season, and he is possibly finished forever with football after suffering a compound leg fracture after running into that golf cart that was left there, in Jim Rome’s terminology, by band dorks.

There’s no doubt that cart should not have been so close to the field. As ESPN’s Rece Davis says on the highlight, “those carts have to go.” And according to the Chron, Houston officials are considering all options. I’m also sure that Marshall University will be considering all options since, if you’ll notice, one of their players was almost seriously injured as well.

Now, considering that Edwards might be out of a lucrative NFL career, one option that should be considered, at least by Edwards, is the legal one – I doubt that even those tort reform nutjobs would find fault with a lawsuit here. And while it’s been a long time since I’ve dealt with personal injury tort law, this is clearly a tort suit.

It’s going to be a rather complicated suit. Edwards will need to find out who exactly left the cart there, then sue that person or persons. He will need to sue the people responsible for supervising the people who left the cart at that location. He will need to sue the Marshall band. And the Marshall football team and athletic department. He will need to sue the people running the stadium, and probably the company providing security. He will also need to sue the university, and if Marshall is a public university, he will need to sue the state of West Virginia as well. He might even need to bring the Cougars and their coaches and his teammates into the suit.

Yes, it sounds complicated. And yes, most of those people and entities aren’t the cause of his injuries. But our tort reform pals have made the law so complicated and have done everything to prevent litigants from collecting damages, that any party who might be involved needs to be sued. Because if I’m the band dork who left the cart there, I say it’s not my responsibility, I was told to leave the cart here. And the guy who told him to leave the cart there will put the blame elsewhere, and so on, and so, and so on, and so on, and so on, until you have some slime ball defense attorney working for one of the insurers saying it’s all the Cougars fault – after all, the coaches should’ve seen that cart there and should have never called for a pass over there, which result in the blame being put on Blake Joseph for overthrowing Edwards, and since Joseph wasn’t part of the suit, Edwards gets nothing.

I’m sure that the University of Houston officials will try to hook Edwards up with some good legal counsel. But I would advise something different to Edwards. Get your own counsel. Don’t go through the university.

But do me a favor. Don’t call John O’Quinn, even though his name is on the University of Houston football field. And don’t call the Texas Hammer. I would give a call to the Houston Bar Association and see if they can give you a good recommendation. Or maybe give a call to James J. Alfini, the dean of the South Texas School of Law here in downtown Houston. I’m sure that he knows some good plaintiffs attorneys.

But most of all, I just want to say good luck. -- John Royal

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