Not Thy Brother’s Keeper

By: Michael Seinberg

1016562_16303964We all know that blood is thicker than water, but when it comes to lawsuits, it probably won’t be. In November of 2012, David Gerken, Jr. was attending a Buffalo Bills football game at the Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo.

While attending the game, Gerken became so drunk, he was ejected from the stadium. He called his brother from his cell phone and let him know what had happened and they agreed to meet later after the game at a bar. Before the game ended and the brothers could get back together for more drinking, Gerken apparently tripped and fell into a creek near the stadium and drowned. This is certainly a tragedy, but arguably a self-inflicted one.

But, in true American fashion, the family is now planning to sue Erie County (which owns the stadium) on the basis that the creek where Gerken drowned was not well lit or properly fenced and also because the stadium saw fit to eject him in that state. To further complicate matters, it has become clear that Gerken’s brother was made aware of his situation but chose to stay and watch the game rather than meet his brother and see him safely to a drinking establishment (there didn’t seem to be an idea he should go home and sleep it off).

Legal experts have opined that if the family wants to win the case, they need to focus on the lighting and fencing issue as a jury that learns of the brother’s unwillingness to leave the game would likely cause them to be less than sympathetic. They should be less than sympathetic no matter what. Gerken chose to attend the game, chose to drink to a point that made stadium officials deem him a hazard to other fans. He made those choices and while nobody feels he deserved to drown, his family certainly does not deserve compensation for his mistakes.

The printed commentary from the public that accompanied the story said as much. While there were a couple of comments suggesting the stadium and county were at fault for multiple reasons, those comments came from people with an obvious legal bent. The vast majority of comments simply suggested the personal responsibility bell needs to be rung here. Many people decried the consistent inability of people to accept responsibility for their actions and to then add insult to injury by literally trying to make someone else pay for their lack of judgment. And of course, many people suggested the blood-sucking attorneys were equally at fault for taking the case and pressing forward in hopes of a juicy settlement.

It is our hope that the judge throws this case out quickly and resoundingly. The family has suffered a loss and many people in that situation look for someone to blame. We regret the loss suffered by the Gerken family but we also regret that they have seen fit to try and defer that loss to Erie County taxpayers, who are already suffering.

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