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3 people injured during Kane County Cougars event sue

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 5:29 a.m. CDT

A St. Charles East graduate and two seniors still attending the school have filed suit against the Kane County Cougars and others, accusing them of being negligent in not trying to protect them from a severe storm that struck the stadium Aug. 4, 2012.

Each one seeks more than $50,000 and a jury trial. Each one also names as defendants the Kane County Forest Preserve District and Professional Sports Catering.

Sisters Mary Gaffney, who was a student at Northern Illinois University, and Abigail Gaffney and Erin Gautille were all hurt when they were struck and injured by picnic tables, tent poles and other debris when the storm hit.

They were all at the ballpark, while volunteering at private parties held prior to the game scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. that night, Gaffney family members had said after the incident.

The lawsuits each assert that the Cougars and the catering company were negligent because they failed to monitor weather conditions and bring volunteers into a safe area, allowing them to remain in unprotected areas when they knew or should have known a violent thunderstorm was approaching.

The forest preserve district is named in the suit because it owns Fifth Third Ballpark, the stadium where the Cougars play. The catering company is named because the volunteers were under their supervision as part of a fundraiser.

The lawsuit notes that shortly before 4 p.m., the storm “blew down trees, knocked out electrical services and dangerously scattered picnic tables, tent poles and other debris” in the areas where the volunteers were providing services.

Forest preserve attorney Patrick Kinnally said he could not comment because the district has not been served with the lawsuit.

Messages left with the catering company and Cougars spokesman Shawn Toumey were not returned.

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