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Judge kills security guard's suit against Bills for injuries at game

A former Ralph Wilson Stadium security guard who was injured in a collision with Buffalo Bills receiver Lee Evans during a 2005 game has lost his effort to win damages from the team.

State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. granted the Bills' summary judgment motion Thursday, throwing out a lawsuit filed by William D. Austin of Wheatfield.

Andrew D. Fleming of Hamburg, Austin's lawyer, said he intends to appeal Kloch's ruling.

Austin, 53, was hurt with 8:16 remaining in the third quarter of a Nov. 13, 2005, game against the Kansas City Chiefs, which the Bills won, 14-3.

Fleming said his client, as instructed, was standing beyond the end zone at the tunnel end of the field with his back to the play, looking into the stands for possible trouble.

Evans stretched to catch a 29-yard touchdown pass from quarterback J.P. Losman, tumbled out of the end zone and crashed into Austin.

Austin was wheeled off on a stretcher but got a big hand from the crowd as he raised his arms to signal "touchdown," The Buffalo News reported the next day.

The News reported Austin suffered a high ankle sprain, but court papers said Austin later underwent surgery for a right knee injury, a "posterior lateral meniscus tear."

"It's a permanent injury," said Fleming, who said Austin, a former Niagara County corrections officer, still works in private security.

Keith N. Bond, the Bills' attorney, did not return calls seeking comment on the case.

Court papers said Austin was working at the game for the Apex Group, a company with which Contemporary Services Corp., which had a stadium operations contract with the Bills, had subcontracted game security duties.

Kloch said court rulings in similar cases have established that people near the sidelines at sporting events have "an implied assumption of risk."

Legal precedents included a ruling against a photographer who was hurt at a New York Knicks basketball game in Madison Square Garden when Knicks forward Charles Oakley crashed into him. The photographer's suit was thrown out of court.

"Our case is different. Mr. Austin was required to look into the crowd. The photographer was required to look at the court and had to assume the risk," Fleming argued. "We thought these were issues that should be heard by a jury, and that's the argument we will make to the Appellate Division."

Kloch also cited an effort by Wendy Kreil of Cheektowaga to collect damages after she was struck by a hammer in 2000 while watching the hammer throw at a Highland Games event in Olcott's Krull Park. She sued Niagara County, which owns the park, but lost.

Another plaintiff who lost his case, according to Kloch, was a stadium vendor hurt by a fan who lunged into the aisle to try to catch a T-shirt fired from a cannon.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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