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Vikings Stadium Collapse: Who Will Get Sued?

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By Jason Beahm on December 13, 2010 11:46 AM

Have you seen the footage of Minnesota's Metrodome collapsing? It's pretty powerful stuff. The Minnesota dome collapse left Minnesota Vikings fans upset and over something not involving Brett Favre for a change. The Vikings-Giants game was moved to a neutral field where the stadium has not collapsed: Ford Field in Detroit.

But what about the larger questions of potential and actual legal liability?

It seems that despite the freakish nature of the roof collapse, it was not a completely freak incident. Fox intentionally pointed at the roof of the Metrodome Saturday night and promptly captured the Metrodome collapse video, which has gone viral.

Producers were tipped off that the roof had been leaking and that something could go wrong. "We knew what we were looking for ... This was specifically for the roof collapsing ... But we'd heard that it had happened here before," Fox NFL game producer Richie Zyontz told USA Today. "It was nice to see a disaster where no one got hurt."

That is a big deal. Imagine if you were a groundskeeper working when the stadium collapse happened? Someone could have been killed. So what is the nature of the problem? Is it a design flaw? A manufacturing defect? There are a lot of questions, but here's an answer you can take to the bank, someone (likely many people) are going to be sued in the fallout of this dome collapse.

It's the fourth time the roof has been ripped open and deflated since the stadium opened in 1982.

A manufacturing defect is a mistake in the manufacturing process. Even if the manufacturer was diligent in manufacturing the product, it is held responsible if it manufactured a defective product.

By contrast, design defects cases rest on a different theory of liability than manufacturing defects. A design defect case attacks the designs themselves as inadequate.

Chances are that a court will soon be asked to consider whether the Minnesota dome collapse was caused by a problem of design, or manufacturing, or even both. One interesting little factoid to take away: A Seattle Post-Intelligencer blogger located a report from April (well before the season and snow started) where the roof maker recommended replacing the roof. Shall we go ahead and call this document "Exhibit A?"

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