— As background, I am a law school graduate but not a practicing attorney. I never sat for the bar exam thanks to my friends at NBC and HBO who rescued me from a life of Torts. I am no legal scholar, but I have been wondering if the NFL may have created more liability issues than it solved by canceling the Eagles-Vikings game due to a snow storm.
If our research is correct, this is the first time an NFL game has been canceled strictly due to weather in the modern era of the NFL. The intentions were admirable, and I hope that fans appreciate that it was done with their safety interests in mind. However, now that the NFL has canceled ONE game due to weather, is that now the precedent that will be followed for every major snow storm that is predicted in the future?
With the league talking about expanding to an 18 game schedule, and the regular season extending into January, snow games will become more of the norm. Will we soon be "Waiting All Day for TUESDAY Night" on a regular basis (shameless Sunday Night Football plug)?
Here would be my concern if I were running the NFL. A future NFL playoff game is predicted to be, and becomes a game played in a heavy snow. The NFL decides to play the game anyway. Traveling to or from the game a car slips off an icy road and three sober ticket holders are killed. A lawyer walks into court and says, the NFL canceled the Eagles game that was played in far better conditions than the conditions on the day of the accident. The city declared a snow emergency (like Philadelphia did so they could reduce liability for the city), but the NFL decided to play anyway.
The NFL has set the precedent that they will cancel games if the fans are considered to be in danger going to or from the game due to weather. Your honor, since the predicted weather in this case was worse than the predicted weather in Philadelphia the day the NFL canceled the Eagles game, the NFL must acknowledge that the standard of safety that the NFL established in Philadelphia was ignored in this case. Therefore, the NFL acted with gross negligence by not canceling this game like they did in Philadelphia. My client was killed based primarily on the NFL's decision to play the game. Therefore, my client was killed due to the NFL's gross negligence.
Can the NFL continue to play snow games with this precedent? Doesn't this increase the league's future liability if they decide to play games despite predicted snow or ice? There is always an assumption of the risk (a legal defense) anytime you decide to travel in bad weather. However, the argument could also be made that the investment made for expensive NFL tickets compelled the fans to assume that risk.
The unfortunate part for the NFL is that their decision to protect their fans from dangerous conditions in Philadelphia may well lead to future litigation. If that proves to be true, "Snow Outs" may lead to more "Tuesday" Night Football on NBC. No good deed goes unpunished.
For more from Cris Collinsworth, check out FootballPros.com every week.