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Patriots sued for incident resulting in death of fan


Here’s a story regarding death, the legal system, and the Patriots that doesn’t involve Aaron Hernandez.

Back in 2010, 40-year-old Jeffrey Chartier died of a heart attack after a confrontation with a security guard over whether Chartier’s six-year-old son could step on the field.

According to the Springfield (Mass.) Republican, Chartier’s wife has sued the Patriots, the NFL, the security guard, the security company, and the stadium operators for wrongful death. The lawsuit, filed in late June, alleges that the heart attack was caused by the confrontation with the security guard. The complaint seeks at least $10 million in damages.

Mrs. Chartier claims that their son, Tedy, had been invited onto the field by two NFL game officials prior to the Week One home game, and that the security guard eventually confronted Jeffrey Chartier about the boy’s presence on the field, because the boy lacked the required credentials. The exchange, which allegedly lasted more than 15 minutes, was according to the lawsuit “confrontational, harsh, unprofessional, disrespectful, and antagonistic.”

The security guard allegedly continued to interact with Jeffrey Chartier in hostile fashion even after Tedy had left the field.

The names of game officials aren’t mentioned, and none are joined as defendants to the lawsuit. According to the official Game Book for the Week One 2010 contest between the Bengals and Patriots, the officiating crew consisted of referee Carl Cheffers, umpire Undrey Wash, head linesman Kent Payne, line judge Darryll Lewis, side judge Jeff Lamberth, field judge Boris Cheek, and back judge Todd Prukop.

Lawyers for the Patriots and other defendants declined comment. It’s unknown whether the suit comes after efforts to resolve the case without litigation.

If the allegations are accurate, the security guard apparently used excessive efforts to deal with a minimal threat to the playing surface. However, the problem will be establishing a link between the guard’s behavior and Chartier’s heart attack. The legal term is “proximate causation"; Mrs. Chartier’s lawyers will have to prove that her husband’s death as a result of an angry interaction falls within the reasonable range of risks created by the guard’s alleged behavior.

I haven’t researched Massachusetts law on that point (lawyer code for “I don’t know”), but it seems at first blush that people shouldn’t anticipate the link between acting like a jerk and causing someone to die from a heart attack. There’s a good chance that the outcome will be driven in large part by how large of a jerk the security guard was.