Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Houston NFL Holding L.P. v. Ryans

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

August 1, 2019

HOUSTON NFL HOLDING L.P. D/B/A HOUSTON TEXANS, Appellant
v.
DEMECO RYANS, Appellee

          On Appeal from the 133rd District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2016-70179.

          Panel consists of Justices Keyes, Higley, and Landau.

          OPINION

          Laura Carter Higley Justice.

         This is an accelerated interlocutory appeal from an order denying a motion to compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act.[1] DeMeco Ryans, a former professional football player for the Philadelphia Eagles, suffered a career-ending injury while playing an away game against the Houston Texans. Ryans sued the Texans in state court, asserting a claim for premises liability as an invitee. The Texans filed a motion to compel arbitration under the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the National Football League's club owners and players' union, and the trial court denied the motion.

         In a single issue, the Texans argue that the trial court abused its discretion because the CBA contains a valid arbitration agreement and Ryans' claim falls within the agreement's scope. We agree and therefore reverse the order denying the motion and remand to the trial court so that it can sign an order compelling arbitration and staying this suit.

         Background

         The material facts are undisputed. DeMeco Ryans is a former All-Pro NFL linebacker who suffered a career-ending injury while playing an away game against the Houston Texans. Ryans sued the Texans in state court, and the Texans, after a failed attempt to remove the case to federal court, moved to compel arbitration under the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL team owners, on the one hand, and players' union, on the other. The issue in this appeal is whether Ryans' state law tort claim falls within the scope of the CBA's arbitration clause.

         Ryans suffers a career-ending injury while playing an away game against the Texans

         Ryans began his career in 2006 with the Houston Texans and was later traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012. Ryans' career came to an abrupt end on November 2, 2014, when he tore his Achilles tendon during an away game at NRG Stadium against his former team, the Texans. The tear to Ryans' Achilles tendon was a non-contact injury-it was not caused by and did otherwise involve contact with another player. After the tear, Ryans was placed on injured reserve and eventually released by the Eagles. After his release from the Eagles, Ryans was not signed by another team. Ryans never fully recovered from his injury and never played professional football again.

         Ryans sues the Texans in state court

         In October 2016, Ryans sued the Texans in state court, asserting a claim for premises liability.[2] In his amended petition, Ryans alleges that, at the time of his injury, the Texans were a lessee and possessor of NRG Stadium, and he was an invitee. He alleges that the Texans, as possessor, owed him, as invitee, a duty of ordinary care, including a duty to provide him and other NFL football players with a reasonably safe playing field.

         Ryans alleges that the Texans breached their duty of ordinary care by negligently selecting an unreasonably dangerous design for the field-one that was made up of hundreds of individual "turf modules" instead of a single, contiguous piece of natural grass. Ryans alleges that the Texans further breached their duty by negligently installing and maintaining the modules. According to Ryans, the negligent design, installation, and maintenance of the field resulted in a "severely uneven" playing surface with "uneven hardness" and other "continuity problems," such as gaps, seams, creases, and holes. These hazards, Ryans alleges, caused players to "land awkwardly, trip, stumble, [and] sink into the turf," leading in some cases to severe, career-ending injuries and numerous complaints from players and coaches.

         Ryan alleges that the Texans' negligence caused the condition of the field to pose an unreasonable risk of harm to the football players who used the field for its intended purpose: the playing of professional football. The Texans knew that the field at NRG Stadium was negligently designed, constructed, and maintained and failed to exercise reasonable care to reduce or eliminate the known risks posed by the condition of the field. By failing to exercise reasonable care to reduce or eliminate the known risks, the Texans directly and proximately caused Ryans' career-ending injury. Had the field not been negligently designed, constructed, and maintained, Ryans alleges, he would not have suffered a career-ending injury and would have continued to play professional football.

         The Texans remove the case to federal court

         After Ryans filed his petition, the Texans removed the case to federal district court based on federal-question jurisdiction.[3] The Texans argued that Ryans' premises-liability claim was preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act because resolution of the claim would require the interpretation of the CBA.[4]

         The federal court remands the case back to state court

         Ryans filed a motion to remand, which the federal district court granted.[5] In its remand order, the federal district court acknowledged that the CBA governs "certain aspects" of the parties' relationship. But the federal district court nevertheless held that Ryans' claim was not preempted under Section 301 because the claim involved questions about the parties' conduct that did not implicate any term of the CBA.

         The Texans move to compel arbitration under the CBA

         In June 2018, the Texans filed a motion to compel arbitration under Article 43 of the CBA. Article 43, entitled "Non-Injury Grievance," requires arbitration of certain disputes involving the interpretation or application of the CBA itself or other listed documents. It provides, in relevant part:

Any dispute (hereinafter referred to as a "grievance") arising after the execution of [the CBA] and involving the interpretation of, application of, or compliance with, any provision of [the CBA], the NFL Player Contract, the Practice Squad Player Contract, or any applicable provision of the NFL Constitution and Bylaws or NFL Rules pertaining to the terms and conditions of employment of NFL players, will be resolved exclusively in accordance with the procedure set forth in this Article, except wherever another method of dispute resolution is set forth elsewhere in [the CBA].

         The Texans argued that Ryans' premises-liability claim falls within the scope of Article 43 because the claim involves the interpretation and application of

• the CBA itself, as the CBA contains various provisions addressing player health and safety and the benefits to which players are entitled in the event of an on-field injury and establishes several committees tasked with addressing issues relating to player health and safety, specifically including issues relating to field safety;
• the NFL Player Contract, which required Ryans to enter NRG Stadium and play as directed by his team, the Eagles, on the day he sustained his injury and, like the CBA itself, contains ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.