A St. Louis jury on Tuesday ordered the Rams to pay former NFL running back Reggie Bush $12.45 million for an injury he suffered during a 2015 game at the former Edward Jones Dome.
Bush was returning a punt for the San Francisco 49ers when he was pushed out of bounds and slipped on an exposed concrete surface near the stadium wall behind the Niners' bench, resulting in a season-ending tear in the anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee. Bush's lawsuit, filed in 2016, referred to the concrete that encircled the stadium as "a concrete ring of death." A week prior to the Nov. 1 incident, Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh McCown slid across the concrete and into a wall, injuring his shoulder. Two weeks after the Bush episode, the concrete was covered with a rubber padding.
An attorney representing the Rams argued that the team could not have foreseen the danger presented by the exposed concrete, given that only two players had ever been injured in that area of the field in the 20-year history of the Dome.
Bush's lawyer claimed that if it weren't for the injury, Bush likely would have landed a three-year contract in the range of $10 million to $15 million. After sitting out the remainder of the 2015 season, Bush spent one season in Buffalo and retired last year.
The jury found the Rams 100 percent liable for the injury, with the award including $4.95 million in compensatory damages and $7.5 million in punitive damages. Last week, a judge dismissed Bush's suit targeting the public agencies the own and operate the Dome, ruling that the Rams controlled stadium operation on game days.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, jurors were repeatedly shown video clips of Bush's injury in real time and in slow motion as doctors offered opinions on whether the concrete caused Bush's fall or if previous injuries contributed to it. Rams lawyers elicited testimony that Bush may have heard and felt a pop in his knee before reaching the concrete strip beyond the sidelines.
SI.com legal analyst Michael McCann explained some of the issues with the defendants' claim that Bush's history of knee trouble contributed to this particular injury:
One hurdle with such a defense is the so-called “eggshell skull” rule. It dictates that a negligent defendant is responsible for all of the harm he/she causes the plaintiff even when the plaintiff was, because of a skull “as fragile as an eggshell,” more susceptible to a worse injury than the average person.
Here, even if Bush’s preexisting problems placed him at a greater risk of an ACL tear than a typical NFL player, the Rams were still responsible for Bush’s unusually severe outcome. Missouri has adopted a version of the eggshell skull rule. It prevents defendants from attempting to minimize damages by highlighting a plaintiff’s preexisting conditions.
Bush made the case that he wasn't ready to see his career end. "I wanted to keep playing. I wanted to go out on my own terms. I never envisioned, as a little boy, my career ending, slipping and falling on concrete during a football game," said Bush, who added that the lawsuit was ultimately about player safety. "Safety always has to be a priority during games, during practices. I'll be honest with you, I've seen worse. Football's a rough sport. It's already as brutal as it can possibly be. We don't need any concrete or anything else out there that can make it even worse for guys. They've got enough to worry about with other guys trying to take their heads off."