MADISON (AP) University of Wisconsin employees should have to face a lawsuit brought by eight students injured in a stampede at Camp Randall Stadium six years ago, attorneys told the state Supreme Court Wednesday.
Celebrating students tried to rush onto the field on Oct. 30, 1993, after Wisconsin beat Michigan, a key game in their run to the Rose Bowl that year.
The students crowded against a 4-foot-high chain link fence whose gates were closed. Sixty-nine people were injured, and football players waded into the crowd to pull victims to their feet.
Students sued officials for negligence, including UW Chancellor David Ward, Athletic Director Pat Richter and campus police chief Susan Riseling.
A circuit court judge ruled state employees were immune from the lawsuit, but eight students appealed.
The 4th District Court of Appeals in Madison upheld the lower court's ruling last February. Attorneys Mark L. Thomsen and Lester A. Pines, arguing for the students, said Wednesday university officials knew that the potential for a stampede was there because congestion problems had occurred at an earlier game at Camp Randall.
That created a “compelling and known danger" and a situation in which university officials lost immunity, according to case law, Thomsen and Pines argued. “Once compelling danger is shown, this immunity is gone," and the lawsuit should go to a jury trial, Pines said. “There's no immunity when there's a compelling and known danger."
Assistant Attorney General John Glinski conceded that there was such a danger, although his definition was slightly different than that of Pines and Thomsen.
Glinski said the UW employees still had immunity because the university had acted by initiating a plan to deal with the possibility of fans rushing onto the field.
Immunity would be lifted only if the UW employees had not acted in advance.
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“Any number of things could have happened," Glinski said. “The plan that was developed was an attempt to address all of them."
Justice Ann Walsh Bradley seemed surprised that Glinski admitted there was such a danger, since attorneys for the students argued that case law showed that immunity would be lifted if such a danger was established.
Riseling attended the arguments, but afterwards declined to comment on charges in the lawsuit.
“I think they're not worthy of discussing," Riseling said.After the arguments, Thomsen said Glinski's concession of a known and compelling danger puts the state “in a box."
“That's the first time that they've conceded that and they should be in trouble," Thomsen said.
However, Glinski said case law supports the state.
“I guess I would disagree with his assessment that we're in trouble," Glinski said.
Plaintiffs included UW students Susan Roemer of Fond du Lac; Adam Read of Chicago; Erika Eneman of Hewlett, N.Y.; Tara Harrison of Coral Springs, Fla.; Alyson Berowitz of suburban New York City; Rebecca Levine of AndoverMass.; Stephanie Kaplan of Cheyenne Wells, Colo.; and Michigan student Amy Nadler of Teaneck, N.J.
All eight have reached settlements with another defendant, Per Mar Security & Research, their attorneys said.