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Staying Safe at the Game: Sporting Events and Alcohol Liability

By Nadeem A. Bezar

This weekend brought sad news for sports fans across the country. A man attending a Packers and 49ers football game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco fell to his death from a pedestrian walkway located high above the ground. Reports say the man appeared to be intoxicated.

Unfortunately, this is not a singular incident. Fall-related deaths and injuries occur at stadiums nationwide, often fueled by alcohol. Check out this USA Today interactive for information on a number of those to have occurred in the last few years.

With the NFL season upon us, we will hear of sporting event incidents on a weekly basis. Certainly, Philadelphia has no shortage of these. In fact, our behavior at football games was recently highlighted in the movie, “Silver Linings Playbook.”

Fans—both old and young—need to be responsible when tailgating and drinking at these events. A football game should not be an excuse to act in an excessive or brazen manner. We can all have fun without overdoing it.

From a liability standpoint, vendors should also be mindful of who and how much they serve. Liquor service liability, also known as dram shop liability, varies from state to state but generally holds the parties overseeing the sale of alcohol accountable if they serve a visibly-intoxicated patron who then causes or sustains injuries as a result of their intoxication. Kolsby Gordon has handled several of these kinds of cases, usually involving a subsequent fall or car accident resulting in life-altering injuries.

At sporting events, alcohol vendors are typically owned and operated by the host team, meaning they may be potentially liable for deaths and injuries. Of course, every incident is different, and Sunday’s accident will be appropriately investigated to determine if any negligence occurred.

The bottom line is that you cannot provide alcohol to someone who is visibly intoxicated. In Philadelphia, preventative measures—like no beer after the third quarter to deter drunk driving—are in place. But you, too, can help. Let’s all be more responsible and enjoy the game.

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