Personal Injury Lawsuits in Dallas Cowboy Roof Collapse; Low Scoreboard OK for this Season

A Dallas Cowboys scouting assistant paralyzed and a special team’s coach whose neck was broken in the May 2, 2009, collapse of the team’s practice facility due to high winds filed separate lawsuits against the Pennsylvania-based company that built the structure and several other companies involved in the construction and maintenance.

Cowboys scouting assistant Rich Behm was paralyzed from the waist down and 11 others were injured when the structure was toppled in high winds. Special teams coach Joe DeCamillas suffered a broken neck in the collapse. Summit Structures, the company that built the practice facility. Summit, an engineer, and five other companies are named in the lawsuits.

The suits contend that the structures concrete foundation were improperly constructed and that the practice facility should have been repaired or rebuilt after problems with the design were discovered in 2007. The lawsuits state that the Cowboys were informed that the “design defects in the practice facility had been permanently repaired,” when, in fact, the flaws were not addressed. The lawsuits also state that the building failed to meet building codes. Summit Chief Executive Nathan Stobbe wrote in a May 25 statement that National Weather Service data showed a “microburst impacted the Valley Ranch area,” where the structure was located. “Other Summit Structures buildings such as the Texas A&M practice facility in College Station — have sustained hurricane force winds with no damage,” Stobbe wrote. “But a microburst is different . . . and its destructive power is not unlike a tornado.”

At the brand new Cowboy Stadium earlier this preseason, Tennessee Titan’s reserve punter A.J. Trapasso hit the gigantic HD screen that hangs over the field, a pride, and joy of Cowboy owner Jerry Jones. The bottom of the 180-foot-long video board at Cowboys Stadium is 90 feet above field level, which is 5 feet higher than the NFL minimum height for such equipment. The league approved the scoreboard in advance, but there was some concern after the punted ball hit the scoreboard that the NFL would require the scoreboard to be raised. The scoreboard costs $40,000,000.00 just to install.

An NFL Competition Committee release August 28 said that the scoreboard did not have to be moved. The Competition Committee also said that any ball that hits the video board, supporting wires, sky cam or other objects will be declared dead and the down replayed from the previous spot. Additionally, coaches will have the opportunity to challenge if they believe such interference occurred and was missed. The NFL’s replay official can also call for a booth review. The guidelines cover only this season, an indication that the league might force Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to raise the boards before the 2010 season, which ends with the Super Bowl in his building. Might that be too late?

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