Employees settle with canopy builders
DALLAS -- The two Dallas Cowboys employees who are suing over injuries they suffered in the collapse of the team's practice facility last year have reached out-of-court settlements with the company that built the structure.
Cowboys scout Rich Behm and special teams coach Joe DeCamillas both have settled with Summit Structures LLC of Allentown, Pa., and its Canadian parent, Cover-All Building Systems Inc. The settlements were described in court documents filed last Friday. The parties agreed to keep the amount confidential, according to the filings.
The agreements do not affect other defendants named in the lawsuits filed by the pair after the May 2, 2009, accident, including three companies controlled by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Behm was paralyzed from the waist down and DeCamillas was left with a broken vertebrae after the steel and fabric building collapsed in a wind storm. They filed identical suits in different Dallas courts last August alleging gross negligence on the part of Summit, Cover-All and others tied to the facility's design and construction.
In March, both suits added the Jones companies as defendants and alleged they knew, or should have known, the building didn't meet code.
Frank Branson, the attorney for Behm and DeCamillas, said his clients are pleased to have the suits partially settled. They now "look forward to dealing with the other defendants, including Jones family entities that owned the building and the land it was on," he said.
Tom Fee, the attorney for Summit and Cover-All, said the settlements are not an admission of liability. He said his clients will aggressively fight a lawsuit filed by the Cowboys claiming the builder failed to consider warnings about the facility's stability from an engineer working for the team.
"We still believe it was a weather-related incident caused by Mother Nature," Fee said.
According to a filing by Cover-All and Summit, the settlements were reached on May 28 after a Canadian court lifted a stay stopping legal proceedings against Cover-All, which is now in receivership. Although Cover-All and Summit face at least four other ongoing lawsuits over other failed buildings, the stay was lifted for the Behm and DeCamillas suits only, the filing said.
Branson filed a motion Friday asking the judge in the Behm case to issue an order stopping defendants from publicizing the amount of the settlements because it might taint the jury pool if the case goes to trial. Only the companies controlled by Jones have refused to enter into an agreement keeping the amount confidential, the motion states.
Attorneys representing the Jones companies did not immediately respond to phone messages from The Associated Press.
Cover-All, citing "significant costs" that include litigation and the repair and replacement of buildings, filed for protection under Canadian bankruptcy laws in March and laid off most of its nearly 500 employees. It later issued a safety warning, saying it had reason to believe some of its buildings may not meet building codes for wind and snow.
A report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology last October said the Cowboys' facility fell in winds of 55 to 65 mph -- far less than the 90 mph specified by engineering standards.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press