Four people injured at a game at FedEx Field last season when a railing collapsed filed a lawsuit against the Washington Commanders on Friday, seeking $300,000 in damages for physical and emotional suffering.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Maryland, asks for an award "in excess" of $75,000 per person for "loss of income, medical expenses, pain and suffering."
Other defendants include Washington Football Incorporated Stadium, which owns the property at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, where the Commanders play; Contemporary Services Corp., which provides ushers and security at the stadium; and Company Does, which provide inspection, repairs maintenance design and oversight.
The Commanders did not respond to a request for comment.
According to the suit, the plaintiffs -- New Jersey residents Michael Naimoli, Andrew Collins, Morgan French and Marissa Santarlasci -- continue to seek treatment for injuries suffered when they fell. Among the injuries they allegedly suffered: cervical strains, muscle strains, bone contusions, cuts, headaches and "other potential long-term effects, both physical and emotional." Naimoli needed to wear a neck brace, attorney Bob Sokolove said.
At the end of Washington's home finale loss last season to the Philadelphia Eagles on Jan. 2, fans gathered by the railings to greet players as they exited the field through the tunnel. As Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts walked into the tunnel, fans leaned over and the railing collapsed, causing eight people to fall about 5 feet to the ground.
Hurts helped some of the fans up, and two of the people who fell took selfies with him before they climbed back into the stands.
After the game, Washington said in a statement, "To our knowledge, everyone involved was offered onsite medical evaluation and left the stadium of their own accord."
The team also said stadium representatives took appropriate action and provided medical treatment on-site for anyone who asked. The plaintiffs called "patently false" in the lawsuit.
One team official told ESPN after the incident that the area where fans were gathered was for people with disabilities. There were no seats, and it is designed to hold six individuals in wheelchairs plus six people accompanying them.
The railing was not load-bearing -- one section was held in place by using a zip tie -- and therefore not designed to withstand hundreds of pounds leaning into it.
According to the team official, several Eagles fans crowded into the platform as players walked off the field following Philadelphia's 20-16 win. But Sokolove said the fans were told by CSC employees they could enter the area, and no one stopped them from doing so.
The suit also alleged that no one advised the fans to not lean against the railing.
"It's beyond negligent to skimp on a safety measure in such a high-visibility, high-trafficked area," Sokolove said. "Whether it's an NCAA game or a pro basketball game or the NFL, everybody comes to the tunnel where the players are coming out. The weight of everyone pushing forward to get a high-five or a wristband or whatever puts even more pressure on what otherwise were pathetic railings."
According to video of the incident, most of the fans who fell appeared to get back up quickly. One fan crashed into the wall on the other side of the tunnel, and he needed help to stand up. Others surrounded a smiling Hurts, who put his arms around them as one of the men tried to take a selfie. Security guards then intervened and directed the fans to return to the stands as they lifted the railing.
The suit says no CSC employees sought information regarding the plaintiffs' injuries or medical conditions. It also says no one from the team reached out to any of the plaintiffs to determine the level of their injuries.
Sokolove said none of his clients had attempted to contact the team since the day of the accident. He added that some of them started getting headaches "halfway up I-95" and went to the hospital.
"I've seen lesser incidents where people were required to get in an ambulance and go to the hospital," he said. "This was, 'Get in your car, drive home and goodbye.'"