(CN) – A casino was improperly held liable to a Super Bowl partygoer who was allegedly flattened by a large man trying to catch a T-shirt, a Louisiana appeals court ruled.
Beverly Zacher was 70 years old when she and her family traveled from Ohio to New Orleans on Feb. 8, 2010, to stay in complementary rooms at Harrah’s New Orleans Casino her brother-in-law had received.
It was an exciting time to be in the Big Easy, as the New Orleans Saints had just scored its first-ever Super Bowl win a night earlier against the Indianapolis Colts in Miami.
Before a parade honoring the team, Harrah’s threw a Black and Gold Super Bowl party with the company that distributes Miller and Coors beer in New Orleans.
Harrah’s also produced 1,000 small, black commemorative towels featuring the date of the game, the team’s fleur de lis logo, and the message, “WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS.”
Zacher testified that when she arrived at the party with her family, the master of ceremonies was throwing “white rolled-up T-shirts” into the crowd.
One “large man” was trying to catch a T-shirt “like he just went after a football” when he ran over her, she said.
Zacher allegedly required hospitalization for shoulder, thigh and ankle injuries.
She and her husband, David, sued the casino, claiming that the emcee had created a “chaotic, uncontrolled environment” by shooting the T-shirts out of an air gun.
Harrah’s countered that Zacher was responsible for “putting herself in a jubilant, excited dense group of revelers.”
The casino’s sponsorship specialist, Karol Brandt, meanwhile denied any knowledge of a white T-shirt giveaway, saying she had ordered black towels for the rally. If anyone had ordered white T-shirts for the event, she would have known about it, Brandt testified.
Brandt also denied that any towels were thrown from the stage and said she received no reports of scuffles or injuries in the distribution of the towels.
After a one-day bench trial in October 2012, a New Orleans judge ruled that Harrah’s was responsible for 10 percent of Zacher’s injuries, thus owing the couple $191,976.
The court also apportioned 75 percent of the blame to the unknown “large man,” and 15 percent of the blame to Crown Crescent, the beer distributor.
A three-judge panel of the Louisiana Court of Appeal’s Fourth Circuit reversed on Feb. 12.
The 32-page ruling does not expressly determine that any T-shirts were thrown from the stage.
“We finds the distinction between whether the items being distributed that precipitated Mrs. Zacher’s accident were Harrah’s souvenir black towels or the unidentified white T-shirts is critical to an analysis of Harrah’s liability,” Judge Rosemary Ledet wrote for the court.
Harrah’s provided undisputed evidence of the distribution of the towels, but that the Zachers provided contradictory evidence regarding the T-shirts, according to the ruling.
“The Zachers failed to call any witnesses to confirm that the incident happened as they described, although they testified that their two other family members witnessed the t-shirt throwing,” Ledet wrote.
After ruling that Harrah’s did not provide negligent security and in fact had extra security for the event, Ledet ruled that the casino was not liable for Zacher’s injuries.