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Robert Trigaux

No matter the sport, Tampa Bay fans encounter violence, injury and lawsuits



RaymondjamesstadiumAP Wake up and good morning. Is attending a sports events around here becoming a more dangerous form of entertainment? You might think so based on recent lawsuits filed in area courts and noted by

Tampa Bay Lightning season ticket holders Shirley and Richard Shotzberger-Mogel last month sued Tampa Bay Arena LTD in Tampa and Center Ice of Tampa LLC of Auburn Hills, Mich., after Shirley claims, prior to an April 16, 2007 Lightning game, she was hurt when employees tossed t-shirts into the crowd. According to the suit,  employees standing on a nearby rooftop used air rifles to launch t-shirts into the crowd gathered below at the St. Pete Times Forum’s outdoor pavilion. (AP photo: A packed Raymond James Stadium.)

Employees allegedly "encouraged members of the crowd to jump into the air, lunge over other patrons and even push and shove other patrons" while trying to catch a free t-shirt. Shirley says she was "seriously injured about the neck, head and body" by a fellow fan. She says the Lightning should have known the promotion was dangerous, especially since alcohol had been served and some invitees were "inebriated."

In the lawsuit, husband Richard says that because of wife Shirley's injuries, he has "suffered a loss of consortium. lack of companionship, mental anguish, emotional harm and loss of capacity for enjoyment of life."

In another lawsuit filed in July, plaintiff Ronald F. Debiase of Pinellas County says he was at Raymond James Stadium watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play when Jeffrey Michael Smith, 23 and from Port Charlotte, assaulted him, causing serious injuries. Debiase claims says Raymond James' security staff could have prevented the assault because even before the attack, Smith allegedly had been "cursing and stating to the public at-large (that) he wanted to fight them" (meaning Ronald and wife Mary). According to, Smith was arrested at Raymond James Stadium and charged with battery, a first-degree misdemeanor. Charges apparently were dropped after Smith agreed to attend an intervention program.

Because of this event, the lawsuit says, Mary Debiase has been denied the "services, attentions and consortium" of husband Ron. The lawsuit claims negligence on the part of the Tampa Sports Authority and Sentry Event Services Inc., which provides security at Raymond James Stadium.

Similarly in May, Eva Rush of Zephyrhills claims in a lawsuit filed in May that she was at Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 6, 2008 when defendant Brenton Ruedeman got in a fight with another man. Rush says she was seriously injured when Ruedeman allegedly threw or pushed the other man into her. She blames Ruedeman as well as the Tampa Sports Authority, the stadium’s owner.

Even attending a Tampa Bay Rays game can lead to injury. A lawsuit filed in December says David, a minor and son of Carolina Amadio and Peter Fiorillo, was riding an escalator at Tropicana Field when he dropped a baseball. When he tried to retrieve it, the boy’s hand allegedly "became entangled" in the escalator. He allegedly suffered "severe lacerations" and "permanent scarring." The defendants include the Rays, Pinellas County and the city of St. Petersburg.

A few more of these types of lawsuits and it will be hard to tell where the real action is: On or off the playing fields. Be careful out there.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:25am]


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