BY MICHAEL RICONDA
Suffern – Normally, hockey injuries occur on the ice, but according to a lawsuit from Suffern village trustee and 2013 mayoral candidate Trish Abato, a longstanding fan tradition at sporting events was enough to inflict injuries for which she filed suit against various parties, including charitable ones.
According to court documents from Abato’s 2008 lawsuit, she claimed to be injured during a joint FDNY/NYPD charity game at Nassau Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum. Abato’s claim alleged that she was standing up when T-shirts were thrown over the rink’s glass, causing a “stampede.”
“They tossed a t-shirt over the glass and a bunch of spectators that were behind me jumped for the t-shirt and jumped on top of me, knocked me down under the seats, knocked me out, broke my cheekbone, and dislocated my shoulder,” claims Abato in an interview with the Rockland County Times.
In response, Abato filed suit against Nassau County, the City of New York, both the FDNY and NYPD, the Long Island Industrial Hockey League, and others associated with the incident. Among the defendants, the Long Island Industrial Hockey League is a not-for-profit organization which was formed specifically to raise money for a variety of causes, including a fund for widows and children of 9/11 widows.
The practice of filing suit against a number of marginally involved parties to an incident is a legal tactic sometimes used to maximize the chance of a court’s acceptance of at least one dispute.
As Abato explained it to the Rockland County Times this week, the lawsuit was not for personal gain, but to prevent similar injuries in the future. She said ultimately she received a small settlement drawn exclusively from Nassau Coliseum, not the 9/11 fund.
She did not provide any records to display these claims. In the settlement no fault was admitted by any of the defending parties.
“It really upset me horribly that children and adults were getting hurt because of [the shirt throwing],” Abato said.
Tossing T-shirts into the audience has become a popular tradition at sporting events, including hockey. However, Abato claimed at the time in 2007, she had never been to a hockey game or any other event where shirts were thrown into the audience, and was given no prior notice that the alleged “stampede” would occur.
Abato claimed first aid personnel told her they themselves believed the practice was dangerous and had caused injuries in the past. However, this charge was disputed by other witnesses to the case who explained they had no knowledge of other injuries.
“There was really no understanding,” FDNY Lieutenant Michael Rossidis said in court testimony. “It was just something that was done for years. It was something that you assumed was going to be done.”
In spite of this, the state Supreme Court upheld the validity of the lawsuit, denying Nassau County’s motion to dismiss the case. The Appellate Court upheld the decision, agreeing with Abato’s contention the shirt-throwing was not one of the “known, apparent or reasonably foreseeable consequences” of a hockey game.
No other witnesses in the case could be reached for comment at this time.