New York Mets Fan Sues Team Over Broken Back Suffered at Ballpark

The New York Mets fan whose back was broken by an apparently drunken 300-pound man who fell on her at Shea Stadium during the team's home opener has filed a lawsuit because of her injuries.

Ellen Massey, 58, says in court papers that on April 9 she was in the second row of the right field upper deck near a "visibly intoxicated" man who was "acting in a rowdy, boisterous and dangerous manner for a long period of time."

Around 3:30 p.m., court papers say, the man, who has not been found or identified, "in an intoxicated condition fell upon plaintiff causing her to sustain severe personal injuries."

Massey's lawyer, Stephen Kaufman, said Monday that the fall by the drunk, who was described as a blond 300-pounder, cracked several of the woman's vertebrae.

"He got up and left," apparently uninjured, Kaufman said. "We have information that one of the security people might have spoken to him and let him leave."

Two emergency medical technicians sitting directly in front of Massey gave her first aid and comforted her until an ambulance arrived, Kaufman said.

Massey underwent surgery for spinal injuries at Jacobi Medical Center and was hospitalized there for about two weeks, Kaufman said. Doctors put rods and screws in her back and will have to operate on her again, he said.

Massey was at the game with two adult nephews when the incident occurred between the sixth and seventh innings, with the Mets behind 5-3. The home team went on the beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 11-5.

Massey, a Manhattan lawyer, named Sterling Mets L.P., owner of the baseball team; Philadelphia-based Aramark Corp., the beer vendor; the Service Employees International Union Local 177, whose members are security guards at Shea Stadium, and "John Doe," the unidentified man who fell on her, as defendants.

Massey's court papers say that Sterling Mets had a duty to provide reasonable safety for stadium patrons, that Aramark should not have sold alcohol to spectators who appeared to be already drunk and that the union employees should have prevented unruly behavior.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in Manhattan's state Supreme Court, seeks unspecified money damages for Massey's injuries.

The Mets issued a statement about the lawsuit saying, "We believe the claim has no merit."

Aramark said it was reviewing the complaint. "We continue to work closely with the Mets and stadium security personnel in investigating this incident," spokeswoman Kristine Grow said.

There was no answer at Local 177's headquarters in Brooklyn.

In August 2006, a New Jersey appeals court reversed a $105 million verdict against Aramark for selling beer to a drunken man who paralyzed a girl in an auto wreck after a 1999 football game at Giants Stadium. The court ordered a new trial.

The three-judge appeals panel said the trial court improperly allowed testimony about the "drinking environment" at the game.

The man who caused the accident, Daniel Lanzaro, 34 at the time, is serving a five-year prison term after pleading guilty to vehicular assault. He settled with the family for $200,000 in insurance money to pay his portion of the damages.

Lanzaro, who had a blood-alcohol level of 0.226, nearly three times the 0.08 legal limit, testified he bought six beers at halftime although he had already drunk at least six during the first half and was slurring his speech.