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Ex-Texans Punter Brett Hartmann Sues Over Injury on Home Turf

By Deanne Katz, Esq. | Last updated on

Former Houston Texans punter Brett Hartmann is suing over a potentially career-ending knee injury that he blames on owners and managers of Reliant Stadium.

Last December, Hartmann caught his foot between two pallets of grass on the field and tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) as a result. He also fractured a bone and has been trying to recover ever since, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Hartmann still faces multiple surgeries and may never play professional football again. Right now he's placing the blame on the field's maintenance, and he has some evidence to back that up.

When it comes to sports injuries, it's generally difficult to shift the legal blame to someone else. Participants in sporting events, especially professional athletes, "assume the risk" of injury from participating in the sport.

That means concussions from hard tackles or broken bones from dangerous plays generally aren't the responsibility of the player who caused them.

This case is slightly different, however, since Hartmann isn't claiming that the danger of playing football caused his knee injury. Rather, Hartmann claims it was caused by poor maintenance of the stadium's turf, which isn't an inherent risk of the game.

To support his case, Hartmann points to the ACL tear that New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker suffered back in 2009, also at Reliant Stadium, reports ESPN.

At the time Welker tore his knee, Patriots coach Bill Belichick allegedly said the turf at Reliant was inconsistent. The suit also mentions comments by Texans tackle Shaun Cody and former Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy about Reliant's turf allegedly being unsafe and poorly maintained.

But the Harris County Convention and Sports Corporation, which is named in Hartmann's lawsuit, doesn't agree that the field at Reliant is unsafe, according to the group's executive director Willie Loston.

Loston contends that the field, which is comprised of more than 1,200 panels of real grass, is not a safety hazard. He also noted that the system of creating the field has been in place for years, according to the Chronicle.

During that time, the stadium has hosted hundreds of football games and one Super Bowl, with another one potentially in the future.

Hartmann's suit claims unspecified damages, but it's not clear what those damages would be, considering the NFL is aleady paying his medical bills. The complaint was filed Thursday in Texas.

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