As baseball fans everywhere celebrate the beginning of a new season, and the introduction of fans in the ballpark, after COVID-19 kept them empty last year, those fans lucky enough to get a seat should remember to pay attention – both to the game and to the back of their tickets. The long-standing “Baseball Rule,” cited by many courts to deny compensation to fans injured in the stands, provides that stadium owners and operators are not responsible for injuries sustained by foul balls or pieces of shatters bats, so long as netted or screened seats are in place for a reasonable number of spectators. Some unlucky fans, seriously injured by thrown or batted balls, bats or pieces of broken bats, have had their lawsuits thrown out because the risk of injury is “reasonably foreseeable,” the hazard is “open and obvious” and fans are presumed to have voluntarily “assumed the risk.” Robert M. Gorman, co-author of “Death at the Ballpark,” has cited about 2000 game-related fatalities between 1862 and 2014, including many spectators.
The back of your baseball ticket (or other sports event ticket) typically reads “The holder assumes all risk and danger incidental to the Event, including, but not limited to, the danger of being injured by thrown bats, thrown or batted balls, etc., and agrees that the [teams], Major League Baseball, agents, players and others are not liable for resulting injuries.”
In a recent case, a woman hit in the face and injured by a foul ball at Wrigley Field filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball. MLB claimed that the language on the back of the ticket requires Arbitration before a Lawsuit can be filed. The Illinois Appellate Court held that the Arbitration language was “hidden in a maze of fine print, unable to be appreciated by the Plaintiff,” and was, therefore, unenforceable.
Some courts have refused to apply the Baseball Rule or blanket disclaimer, and permitted injured fans to submit their claims to a jury. But these are rare and unusual situations and injuries can best be avoided if fans PAY ATTENTION for their own safety. If you believe that you have suffered an injury caused by the negligence of another, contact Martucci Law for a free office consultation to discuss your case