Two Dallas Cowboys employees who were seriously injured when the NFL team's indoor practice facility collapsed in May have filed lawsuits against the companies that built the tent-like structure, including a subsidiary of Saskatoon-based Cover-All Building Systems.
Rich Behm, a scouting assistant for the club, and special teams coach Joe DeCamillis filed separate lawsuits Tuesday in state district court in Dallas against Cover-All subsidiary Summit Structures LLC and others involved in building the steel-and-fabric facility. The suits seek unspecified damages and charge the companies with gross negligence.
Behm was permanently paralyzed from the waist down after his spine was severed during the May 2 collapse, while DeCamillis sustained a fracture of one of his cervical vertebrae without paralysis. Both have returned to work for the Cowboys, Behm in a wheelchair and DeCamillis with a neck brace.
The pair have hired Dallas trial lawyer Frank Branson, a specialist in personal injury and medical malpractice who boasts of winning record lawsuit awards, to represent them.
The 88,000-square-foot facility in Irving, Texas, a steel-framed structure with a fabric shell, came crashing down during a sudden microburst of high winds that gusted up to 113 km/h. About 70 players, coaches, media and others were inside for a team practice. In addition to Behm and DeCamillis, 10 others were injured.
The facility did not meet applicable codes for wind -loading resistance even after Summit Structures and a Las Vegas engineering firm, JCI Holding, represented to the Cowboys that design defects had been corrected, according to the lawsuits.
The complaints contend that Summit Structures, Cover-All Building Systems and JCI engaged in a civil conspiracy by agreeing to hide and conceal the practice facility's shortcomings.
None of the allegations has been proven in court.
"I think this entire thing was so easily preventable had Summit and Cover-All and the engineers from Las Vegas set about to resolve the problem instead of minimizing their costs," Branson said.
A spokeswoman for Summit did not immediately respond to a request for comment.