DALLAS — A Dallas County jury found Tuesday that the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys, and a security company are liable for the injuries suffered by a Super Bowl halftime worker who was hit by falling ice in 2011.
But the jury concluded that HKS, the architectural firm that designed the stadium, was not responsible for injuries suffered by Severin Sampson, 48.
The NFL, the Dallas Cowboys and the security company had already settled with Sampson for an undisclosed amount prior to the jury reaching its verdict.
The jury divided responsibility for Sampson’s injuries this way:
- 70 percent — Dallas Cowboys
- 25 percent — NFL
- 5 percent — security company
Sampson and his attorney, Brian Butcher, said they were pleased overall with jury’s decision, because it placed blame for Sampson's injuries squarely on the NFL and the Cowboys.
“It was a win for us,” Sampson said. “It took me three years, and let me tell you, they tried really hard to starve me out, because workers compensation only goes so far and then doctor’s restrictions keep you out of work. They tried really hard to... make me walk away with not even a shiny penny."
Sampson was hit by falling ice at Cowboys Stadium two days before the Super Bowl in February 2011 after warming temperatures melted the accumulation on the roof.
He suffered a traumatic brain injury, loss of hearing in one of his ears, and still has a "violent" ringing in his head that requires him to wear a special device in his ear.
Sampson can no longer work in his chosen profession as a sound engineer because of the injuries, he and his attorney said.
Lawyers for the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys had argued that what happened to Sampson was merely an accident, and that there was no way it could have been foreseen. They’ve also argued that his injuries and problems are not as lasting and severe as claimed.
They also contended that Sampson was partially to blame for his own injuries, and claimed that he had walked out of an entrance even as a security officer was yelling at him "with a bullhorn, 'Don't go there.'"
After the verdict, Sampson said the NFL, the Cowboys, the security and event companies decided to settle after a security company official told the jury that they weren’t going to accuse him of forcing his way past security.
"As soon as the security went in front of the jury and said that they weren’t going to accuse me of fighting, the NFL and [the Cowboys] immediately doubled their offer," Sampson said. "It wasn’t enough; they had to go up even higher. And it was way more than they ever wanted” to pay.
He said the NFL and the Cowboys agreed to pay what he had demanded during mediation, but he could not give specific figures about the settlement because of a nondisclosure agreement.
“I was up against three billionaires,” Sampson said. “I had an uphill battle the whole way.”
Hollye Fisk, an attorney for HKS, said he was pleased with the verdict, but declined further comment.
Officials with the design firm testified during the trial that they didn't consider the potential problem of falling ice when they designed the stadium. They also testified that building codes did not require them to do so.
Sampson said he respects the jury’s verdict, but still believes that the design of the building was bad because it didn’t take precautions for the potential of ice and falling snow.
He indicated that the victory was bittersweet.
“I don’t have the life I had before... the life I would rather have and the job I enjoyed,” Sampson said.