This MLB season, there seems to be an epidemic of fans being struck and horrifically injured by foul balls. The most prominent incident took place when a 2-year-old girl was struck in the head by a foul ball during a game between the Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros. But it happens more often than people think.
Bloomberg conducted a study that concluded about 1,750 fans a season are struck by foul balls in baseball parks. Many of these incidents result in injures, but Major League Baseball is dragging its feet when it comes to enhanced safety measures. This leaves many people wondering—if a foul ball cracks my jaw during a baseball game, who can be held legally responsible for my medical bills and other costs?
The Baseball Rule
When it comes to liability for injuries incurred by spectators inside a baseball stadium, the courts go by “the Baseball Rule.” The Baseball Rule limits a stadium’s duty of care owed to providing spectators with “reasonable protection.” This reasonable protection comes in the form of screening behind and around home plate. Spectators who choose to view the game in an unscreened area are assumed to consent to the risk of being struck by balls and other projectiles in the ordinary course of play. This rule also encompasses pregame warmup activities.
What Is the Assumption of Risk?
The assumption of risk is a major defense used in personal injury claims brought by spectators as a result of play on the field. Baseball teams and stadium managers argue that fans who come to baseball stadiums to watch a game know there is a risk of being hit by a foul ball or broken bat, and decide the risk is worth it when they buy a ticket.
Tickets to a baseball game typically include a liability waiver printed on the back. Though these are difficult to enforce in a court of law (because there is no obligation for spectators to read and agree to the terms upon entering a stadium), ticket waivers may still allow the stadium to avoid responsibility for injuries that occur during a game.
When it comes to holding the stadium accountable, you must be able to show that negligence on the part of the baseball stadium resulted in your injuries. How can you do this? By proving:
- The stadium had a duty of reasonable care to protect spectators.
- The stadium violated this duty in some manner, such as by failing to fix known holes in the safety nets.
- The violation directly led to your injury.
If these facts can be established, you might be able to prove the stadium was negligent and responsible for the injuries you sustained. Even though you technically assumed the risk of injury by attending the game, the stadium had a legal duty to protect you from unnecessary or extraordinary hazards that occurred. This is especially true in cases involving children. Some court cases have provided precedents regarding children who have been harmed by foul balls, arguing that “assumption of risk” does not apply to them based on their age.
If you or someone in your family have been injured at a Yankees or Mets game, give Pollack, Pollack, Isaac & DeCicco, LLP a call at 212-203-4795. It’s important to speak with a New York personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to determine whether you have a claim.