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Rams ordered to pay Reggie Bush $12.5M for injury on 'concrete ring of death'

San Francisco 49ers running back Reggie Bush is carted off the field after being injured on a punt return during first quarter action on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

CHRIS LEE/ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH/TNS

By JOEL CURRIER | St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Published: June 13, 2018

ST. LOUIS (Tribune News Service) — A St. Louis jury has awarded millions of dollars to a former NFL running back who suffered a severe knee injury in a game at the Edward Jones Dome in 2015.

The Los Angeles Rams were ordered to pay Reggie Bush $4.95 million in compensatory damages and $7.5 million in punitive damages.

The jury found the Rams 100 percent liable for Bush's injury. He had also sued public agencies that own and operate the Dome, but they were dismissed from the suit by a judgelast week after arguing the football team had control of operations at the facility on game days.

"I'm very happy with the verdict," Bush told the Post-Dispatch after the verdict. "The people spoke and decided very fairly."

The former San Francisco 49er filed suit in 2016, claiming he suffered a season-ending knee injury during a game against the St. Louis Rams on Nov. 1, 2015. Bush was returning a punt when he was pushed out of bounds, then slipped and fell on what his lawsuit called a “concrete ring of death,” a strip of exposed concrete about 35 feet behind the 49ers bench.

Two weeks after Bush was injured, the concrete surface in the Dome was covered with rubber padding.

The trial, which started last week in St. Louis Circuit Court, put Bush's 11-year NFL career under a microscope. Bush’s productivity as a running back after he tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee was questioned. Bush claimed the injury undermined his chances to get a more lucrative contract the following season and hurt the rest of his playing career. After sitting out the rest of the 2015 season, Bush signed with Buffalo for the following season. He announced his retirement last year.

Bush’s fall followed a similar incident at the Dome on Oct. 25, 2015, in which Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh McCown slid across the same concrete stretch into a wall, hurting his shoulder.

That was the final season for the Rams in St. Louis. Owner Stan Kroenke moved the team to Los Angeles the following season. The former Edward Jones Dome is now called the Dome at America's Center.

Bush had originally sued the Rams as well as the publicly funded St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority and the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, which owns and operates the Dome.

At trial, jurors were shown video clips of Bush's injury numerous times in real-time and in slow motion as doctors offered opinions on whether the concrete caused Bush's fall or if previous injuries contributed to it. Rams lawyers elicited testimony that Bush may have heard and felt a pop in his knee before reaching the concrete strip off the sidelines.

Bush said the injury not only ended his season but "it ultimately ended my career. I wasn't ready to end. I wanted to keep playing. I wanted to go out on my own terms. I never envisioned, as a little boy, my career ending, slipping and falling on concrete during a football game."

Bush said the lawsuit was about player safety.

"Safety always has to be a priority during games, during practices," Bush said. "I'll be honest with you, I've seen worse. Football's a rough sport. It's already as brutal as it can possibly be. We don't need any concrete or anything else out there that can make it even worse for guys. They've got enough to worry about with other guys trying to take their heads off."

In closing arguments Tuesday, Bush's lawyer asked jurors for a judgment against the Rams ranging from $10 million to $15 million, arguing that he was in line for a three-year deal in that range at the time of his injury.

"Reggie lost his ability to do what he loved, and to bargain for a contract that he worked his entire life for," Bush's lawyer Tim Cronin said. "These players get chewed up. They only have so many chances."

Dan Allmayer, a lawyer for the Rams, had argued the NFL team should not be held responsible for Bush's injury because the team could not have foreseen a dangerous condition when no one besides McCown and Bush had been injured there over 20 football seasons played at the Dome.

Allmayer focused most of his closing argument Tuesday on Bush's career rushing statistics, injuries and statements to the press about his health. He said Bush's injury was caused by "pre-existing issues," not the fall on the concrete. Allmayer also said the Rams hustled to cover the concrete immediately after Bush's injury, which shows the team was concerned about safety.

"Football is risky and being pushed out of bounds is a risky part of the game," he said. "Reggie Bush is one of the most talented running backs in the NFL. Why didn't he swerve or do something to avoid the concrete? … Why in 20 years had all sorts of running backs who had been pushed out of bounds not reached the concrete?"

Rams spokeswoman Joanna Hunter declined to comment on the verdict. Allmayer said the Rams plan to file a motion for a new trial.

Bush, 33, of Los Angeles, said he is working as an analyst for the NFL Network.

He won't see all of the money the Rams were ordered to pay. Missouri law requires that 50 percent of punitive damages paid by a defendant go to the state Tort Victims' Compensation Fund. People who have been injured due to negligence or recklessness but can't obtain full compensation because the party at fault doesn't have insurance or is goes bankrupt can seek compensation from the fund.

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