(WBEN) It's been four days since the body of a Bills fan was found dead behind Ralph Wilson Stadium, and few details are yet known about whether David Gerken was drunk, why he was ejected from the game , and whether the team, the stadium or vendors could face any liability.
Exclusive WBEN Audio
On The WBEN Liveline
Steve Boyd, Personal Injury Attorney
"We are deeply saddened to hear of this news ..." the team said in a prepared statement " While the loss of life is always tragic, the loss of a young life is even more so. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family. We are currently cooperating with law enforcement officials to find out the details of this unfortunate incident."
The lack of those public details leaves a lot of questions about the incident, and what happened.
- Was Gerken drunk?
- Who served him and what did they observe?
- Depending on his condition, did security release him into more danger by sending him out of the stadium intoxicated?
"At this time, the preliminary results are that it was an accidential drowning," Orchard Park Police Chief Andrew Benz said Friday. Hypothermia may have also played role, with no sign of any trauma or foul play involved, he added.
"I don't know that alcohol played a role," Benz said Friday.
Gerken's family over the weekend told several media outlets that they don't believe he was drunk, and that he was ejected from the game while in the lavatory.
"Where he was, is (also) part of what we need to have clarified,” his father told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. “The parking back there (near where Gerken was found) is for staff. There’s no reason for anybody to be back in the area. I don’t believe it’s lit up at night. I don’t know that. It’s not where anybody would travel.”
And whether they ultimately have a case to make against the team, or vendors who may have sold Gerken beer, remains to be seen.
"It's a tough liability case against the law enforcement people and the stadium, but there are liability theories that exist,"
-- Attorney Steve Boyd
Boyd, a personal injury attorney who has often sued on behalf of families hurt by drunk driving and other alcohol incidents, says the NFL has intensive training on spotting intoxication and not serving people who are drunk, but determining whether or not Gerken drank outside the stadium, whether others brought beer back to him, and why he was ejected is crucial.
"A lot of what we are looking at here comes down to the actual circumstances and it's pretty difficult to point fingers until we know what those circumstances were," Boyd says.
Under New York State law, servers can be held liable for the deeds of someone they clearly saw was drunk and still served them.
In domestic violence cases, there are also occasional lawsuits when police intervene and either escalate a situation or release someone back into a dangerous situation. Some attorneys say that similar issues could apply in the Gerken case, depending on his condition when he was ejected from the game.
|Overall, how satisfied are you with security efforts at Ralph Wilson Stadium?|
|( 30% )|
|( 32% )|
|( 39% )|