Jim Adler | The Tough, Smart Lawyer
By Jim Adler September 9, 2016

Football is a dangerous activity which can involve serious injuries, and football tailgating parties are no different. Many Americans have been injured — even killed — at so-called “tailgating” parties held in parking lots and elsewhere near stadiums before, during and after college and pro football games.

Such organized gatherings to eat, drink and party also are held in connection with other events, from NASCAR races to concerts.

Tailgating Truck Kills Woman

Before the Yale-Harvard football game in 2011, a truck carrying kegs of beer to a fraternity’s tailgating party crashed into pedestrians outside Connecticut’s Yale Bowl, injuring several persons and killing a woman, 30. Her family later received a settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit against Yale and U-Haul, while also suing the fraternity.

The driver was charged with reckless driving.

After the tragic incident, Yale University banned kegs at tailgating events. Also banning kegs are the University of North Texas, Michigan State, Penn State, Arizona State and Ohio State.

Other schools may not ban kegs, but do ban other things. Tailgating rules at the University of Alabama regulate electricity use and bringing pets to such events.

Tailgating Crash Injures Woman

On Sept. 5, 2015, a female fan was injured during tailgating activities outside Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN, before Notre Dame’s game with the University of Texas.

Witnesses said an SUV in a parking lot just south of the stadium accelerated suddenly and struck a parked car, causing a chain reaction in which two other parked vehicles were struck. One of those vehicles then struck the woman.

Man Shot During Tailgating

About a month later, on Oct. 11, 2015, a man attending a tailgating party in the parking lot outside the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas was shot in the head during an altercation about 90 minutes after the Cowboys’ game with the New England Patriots.

The man, in his 40s, was critically injured, Arlington Police said. The suspected shooter also was injured when he fell while apparently trying to flee the scene after police arrived.

Other Tailgating Injuries, Rules

Other tailgating injuries include foodborne food poisoning, gas grill injuries and injuries caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Because of such things, tailgating rules apply at many venues.

The University of Houston prohibits “kegs, other common containers, drinking games and the use of devices intended to accelerate the consumption of alcohol” at tailgating activities outside its TDECU Stadium.

UH also prohibits glass bottles or containers on UH lots, and loud music which might interfere with others’ tailgating parties. Tailgating activities are not permitted on campus property after a game starts, but can resume for up to two hours after a game ends.

UH holds tailgating participants responsible “for any damage, injury or loss caused by your actions or inactions.”

Tailgating Injury Liability, Lawsuits

Yet universities also face legal exposure, with tailgating injury liability extending to a variety of persons and entities, depending on the nature of the tailgating activity injury. Such liability can be the basis of a tailgating lawsuit.

A university also may be liable if a feature related to tailgating events injures someone. A University of Texas law professor sued the university when he tripped and fell over a cable laid across a sidewalk to provide electric power for tailgating activities.

The university or pro team which owns a stadium and surrounding property may face a tailgating injury lawsuit on the grounds of premises liability. Such a lawsuit can target  owners even in the event of a fight with injuries on their property by asserting inadequate security protection.

Individuals, groups or social organizations such as fraternities which hold tailgating events also may be legally liable in the event of:

  • Personal injuries occurring due to their tailgating activities, from collapsing chairs to exploding gas grills
  • Personal injuries due to tainted food served at a tailgating event
  • Personal injuries caused by high alcohol consumption at a tailgating event, under social host liability laws

Insurance for Tailgating Injuries

Individuals throwing tailgating parties are advised to purchase one-day event liability insurance to protect themselves in the event of injuries related to their tailgating event. A homeowners insurance policy likely provides no liability coverage for an off-premises event such as a tailgating party.

A business which throws a tailgating party already may have insurance coverage via commercial coverage protecting it at off-site locations. However, businesses are advised to buy supplemental liquor liability insurance coverage when serving alcohol at such events.

Jim Adler & Associates advised all tailgaters to obey the rules and have fun without causing injury to anyone.

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