Major League Baseball (“MLB”) Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to the media this week regarding growing concern of fan safety from foul balls hit into the crowd. His short answer regarding net expansion was no, MLB would not be expanding protective nets this season. His reasoning was that the structural issues in each individual stadium would make it difficult to mandate changes during the season, but the recent incident at Minute Maid Park will lead to conversations into the off-season.
These comments come a week after a young child was severely injured at a Houston Astro’s game at Minute Maid Park. Following the game several Cubs players (the Astro’s opponent) offered their dismay about the continued threat that fans face from foul balls slicing into the crowd. Balls that can fly into the crowd up to 90 mph. If it was up to Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, the teams would provide netting around the entire stadium. Maybe he has a point. This has been an ongoing issue for the MLB dating back the last several years. As I have written here on the past, almost every year a handful of fans have been seriously injured, with one dying at a Boston Red Sox game last season. MLB responded by requiring all teams expand netting all the way to the end of each dugout.
The question is whether the current netting system is enough protection. I don’t think it is. This is especially disheartening because courts have continuously protected major league sports teams from liability when fans are injured by balls at games. The courts have used a common law assumption of risk argument that all fans know that there a risks such as errant foul balls that fly into the crowd. If the netting isn’t expanded this off-season, then I think state legislators should consider laws that would lift the common law protection for major league teams that continue to allow these injuries to occur to their fans.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a Chicago personal injury matter or a Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.