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A Patriots fan's family is suing the New England team over his death, alleging that the man's 2010 heart attack was caused by a confrontation with a security guard at Gillette Stadium.
Husband and father Jeffrey Chartier, 40, died in September 2010 from a heart attack. HIs death followed a 15-minute argument with a security guard over whether his 6-year-old son had permission to be on the field before the Patriots' Week One home game, reports NBC Sports.
Security may have been rude, but does that mean the Patriots and the NFL are liable for Chartier's death?
Wrongful Death Alleged
Chartier's wife Kimberly filed a $10 million wrongful death suit against several parties including the Patriots, the NFL, the security guard, and the security company, reports The Republican.
Even though her husband's death occurred nearly three years prior, Kimberly's suit, filed in June 2013, is valid because it is within Massachusetts' three-year limit on civil suits for personal injury.
The main question left in evaluating Chartier's wrongful death case is whether the defendants' actions or inaction could have foreseeably caused her husband to suffer a heart attack.
Was a Heart Attack Foreseeable?
In order for the Chartier family's suit against the Patriots to succeed, the plaintiffs (Kimberly and her son) will have to prove that the team was somehow negligent in allowing the skirmish between Chartier and the security guard which led to the fatal heart attack.
A necessary element of all negligence claims is called proximate cause, meaning the defendants cannot be held liable as the "cause" of Chartier's death unless his heart attack was a reasonably foreseeable result of their actions.
It may have been reasonably foreseeable that Chartier would be angry or aggravated following a heated confrontation with NFL security, but it seems unlikely that a rude encounter would foreseeably lead to a heart attack.
However, unexpectedly fragile victims are often helped by the "eggshell skull" rule. According to the rule, a party whose negligence caused a foreseeable injury must accept the extent of the plaintiff's injuries (including, potentially, a heart attack) despite any vulnerable qualities of that person (for example, a heart condition).
This doctrine may come into play only if the Chartiers can prove some injury was foreseeable from the skirmish on the field. If they can prove that, then it's a bit more likely that the Patriots and the NFL could potentially be held liable for the fan's fatal injuries.