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Injured Buffalo Bills security guard cannot sue for injuries sustained on sidelines


ROCHESTER, N.Y.—A security guard injured on the sidelines of a 2005 Buffalo Bills game cannot sue the team for damages, a New York Appeals Court ruled last week.

William Austin had been guarding a tunnel entrance behind one of the end zones at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, N.Y., on Nov. 13, 2005, when two players overran the end zone and crashed into him.

Mr. Austin attempted twice—in 2006 and again in 2008—to sue the team in a Niagara County Supreme Court for compensatory damages for injuries to his knee and ankle. Both cases were dismissed on the grounds that Mr. Austin was or should have been aware of the risks associated with being on the field of play during the game.

On March 16, a three-member panel of appellate judges upheld the lower court's ruling.

“The (lower) court properly determined that Mr. Austin assumed the risk of his injury,” the court ruled. Because Mr. Austin fully comprehended the risks, “or the risks were perfectly obvious,” the court said, “he consented to them, and the (Bills organization) has performed its duty.”

Mr. Austin argued in his appeal that his assignment as a guard carried an inherent compulsion to assume the risk of injury, and was not a matter of free will. The court rejected the argument because it had not been introduced in the lower court, but noted that it was fundamentally “without merit.”