Throwing a major sporting event isn’t without its headaches. Owners of professional sports teams or stadiums are often sued by attending fans for injuries received, despite the fact that it isn’t something you normally hear being reported on ESPN.
Typically, lawsuits brought forth by fan spectators fall into these categories:
– Fans being struck by an item
– Fans being injured during slip and fall
Below is a recent North Carolina Court of Appeals ruling dismissing a claim brought by a fan who was hurt after being struck by a foul ball at a minor league baseball game.
What Are The Responsibilities of Sports Owners In Terms Of Fan Safety?
Owners of sports teams or arena operators are required under premises liability law to take appropriate precautions to safeguard spectators from injury that is likely to happen. This is why you see glass surrounding the rink in a hockey game or protective netting beyond home plate to comply with the law.
What if you’re struck by a baseball in a stadium where there isn’t any netting? This was the central issue in a lawsuit against the Durham Bulls by a North Carolina family, which you can read about below.
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Mills v. Durham Bulls Lawsuit
During a Durham Bulls minor league baseball game in 2015, Angelina DeBlasio, 11, was hit in her face by a foul ball that soared over the left-field wall and into a picnic table where she was seated out. After the incident, she was transported to an area hospital where she needed surgery for her injuries.
The child’s parents filed a negligence lawsuit against the Durham Bulls for the incident, claiming their daughter was too young to grasp the dangers of attending a baseball game, and that the team didn’t implement the appropriate safeguards to protect fans.
In the end, a judge dismissed the lawsuit due to something called the “baseball rule”.
The Baseball Rule
100 years ago, the baseball rule was adopted to protect baseball organizations from liability, provided they offer some seats with protection for spectators who want them. Specifically, the rule protects clubs from responsibility for fan injuries caused by foul balls.
The legislation is justified by the fact that it is widely accepted that baseballs may fly beyond the lines of the field during a game and could go into the stands. Due to the rule, netting or protection to all fans is not required. Instead, clubs must only supply protected seats to attendees who request them.
The amount of seats that need to be protected is different from state to state in order for teams to not be held accountable under the baseball rule. Furthermore, it is not upheld in every state.
Assumption of risk
Baseball teams and stadium owners will sometimes use the defense of “assumption of the risk.” This legally points to the owners being protected from responsibility when an injured person takes the risk of being hurt by engaging in a potentially dangerous activity.
Can You Sue If You Are Hit By A Foul Ball?
Despite the obstacles indicated above, some fans have been able to win judgment in certain states. One example is a child being injured after she was hit by a foul ball during an Atlanta Braves game, as well as a man who was hit by a fall and lost one of his eyes during an Iowa State baseball game. Both were able to collect damages from the teams.
Despite some having success, it is extremely difficult to win a judgment without the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney. A pi lawyer will tell you, the chances of success are heavily weighted by the state that the game took place.
Though we’ve offered some insight as to this specific type of injury, it is best to consult with a legal expert to obtain further information.