CHARLESTON -- Houston wide receiver Patrick Edwards is suing Marshall University and Conference USA after he broke his leg when he ran into a metal service cart in an October 2008 game.

Gil Gelbke, a referee at the football game in question, was also named as a defendant in the suit.

On Oct. 28, 2008, Edwards was running for a long pass when his right shin crashed into the cart just beyond the end zone at the Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington, according to a complaint filed Aug. 31 in Kanawha Circuit Court.

In the third quarter of the game, which was televised nationally on ESPN, Edwards suffered a compound fracture in his right leg trying to catch a pass from Blake Joseph. A rod was inserted into Edwards' lower right leg during surgery the next day in Huntington.

Edwards "sustained career-threatening and damaging orthopedic injuries when he encountered an equipment cart carelessly placed and left just beyond the end zone and within feet of the field limit lines," the complaint states.

The episode was captured on YouTube, with Edwards being one of the hundreds of thousands of viewers.

Marshall had a duty to maintain its football field in a reasonably safe manner, according to the suit. NCAA football rules require officials to remove any markers and obstructions from the playing surface that might be hazards to players and Gelbke had a duty to report obstructions constituting a hazard to game management.

Edwards claims the defendants failed to report to game management dangerous obstructions within the playing enclosure; failed to remove the dangerous obstructions; failed to guard against dangerous obstructions; failed to warn players; and needlessly endangered college football players by maintaining an unsafe playing field.

Marshall officials apologized afterward and several Thundering Herd players and then-coach Mark Snyder visited Edwards in the hospital. Edwards missed the remainder of the 2008 season, but returned to catch 85 passes for 1,021 yards and six touchdowns as a junior in 2009. He was a second-team All-Conference USA pick last season.

A junior for the upcoming 2010 season, Edwards is on the Biletnikoff Award Watch List for that nation's top collegiate wide receiver.

"We are aware of the lawsuit and have advised our attorneys," said Conference USA Assistant Commissioner Courtney Morrison Archer in a statement. "It was an unfortunate accident and we are glad that Patrick has recovered so well from it. We will have no further comment regarding ongoing litigation."

Edwards is seeking compensatory damages with pre- and post-judgment interest for medical care; lost wages and earning capacity; physical pain and mental anguish; physical disfigurement; and physical impairment. The damages sought do not exceed $1 million, according to the suit. Edwards is being represented by Jim Peterson, and Aaron L. Harrah of Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Carrie Webster.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 10-C-1565




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