Multiple news outlets, including ESPN.com, reported this week that all 30 Major League Baseball (“MLB”) parks will extend their protective netting beyond where they currently sit as of the end of the 2019 season.
While at the Winter Meetings, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, told reporters that the netting at all ballpark stadiums will extend beyond the duguouts (where the teams sit), but that each stadium will be different. “Seven clubs will have netting that extends all the way to the foul pole,” Manfred said. “Fifteen additional clubs are expanding netting for the 2020 season. There is some variation in this group of 15, but, in general, they are extending netting past the end of the dugout to the elbow in the outfield where the stands begin to angle away from the field of play.”
The Chicago White Sox were the first team to extend netting all the way to the outfield foul poles, which essentially protects all fans on the lower level from foul balls and broken bats that inadvertently fly in the stands.
There have been calls from the media and fans to extend netting at all the ballparks after a series of fan injuries, including the serious injury to a young girl this past season in Houston. MLB is doing the right thing in this situation. I have discussed on this blog in the past that Courts throughout the country have rarely held the MLB or individual teams liable for fan injuries from fly balls. This has been referred to in common law as the baseball rule which says that fans by buying a ticket they are assuming the risk that they could be injured at a game by a ball or a bat flying into the stands. I have criticized this rule over and over again because as the injuries continued, many teams were reluctant to expand their protective netting. The MLB, which knows they probably won’t be held liable in court, is still doing the right thing by expanding the netting at all the stadiums.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a Chicago personal injury accident or Chicago truck accident, then Call Chicago accident attorney, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076
During the summer of 2018 a woman was attending a Houston Astros baseball game. Between one of the innings, the Astros’ mascot was launching free t-shirts into the crowd. One of those t-shirts struck this women in the hand, and apparently caused a serious injury. Since that time the woman alleges she has had multiple surgeries, missed time from work and has suffered serious pain and suffering. As a result, a lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the woman against the Houston Astros alleging negligence by the team and their mascot.
There have been similar lawsuits filed against in Major League Baseball in the past. I wrote about the case in Kansas City where a fan was hit in the face by a hot dog launched by a similar style gun. That man suffered a detached retina in one of his eyes, and unfortunately he lost his case before a jury. Major League franchises, including teams in the baseball, have in the past been protected with immunity for injuries that come as a result of foul balls and broken bats. All teams put a disclaimer on their tickets stating fans are assuming the risk of these potential accidents and injuries while attending games. This is often called the “baseball rule.” That legal theory, in place for about a century, presumes an inherent risk among those attending a baseball game, and assigns fans responsibility for paying attention and being prepared for the occasional ball or bat coming their way. But should that apply to antics put on by the team in between innings like launching t-shirts into the crowd?
I have not seen the complaint filed in the Astros case, but I am curious if they have filed a product liability claim against the manufacturer of the t-shirt launcher. They could allege that the gun is inherently dangerous and/or defective due to the speed in which the t-shirts are launched. Also, I would imagine that the attorneys for the Astros will file multiple affirmative defenses including comparative negligence. These types of defenses attempt to shift the blame on the Plaintiff, and will depend on the facts of the accident that will come out during depositions. Specifically, that type of defense would hinge on how active this women was in attempting to catch the t-shirt. Did she stick her arms out and partake in attempting to catch the t-shirt? Or, was the just an innocent bystander? Also, the Astros defense team will more likely than not file a motion to dismiss based on the assumption of risk disclaimer discussed above.
I think this woman faces an uphill challenge of getting her case actually before a jury (due to expected motions to dismiss), and ultimately winning at trial. I wish her and her team luck as she appears to have suffered real permanent damage to her hand, and I believe the courts have gone way too far out of their way to protect teams when injuries like this occur. Especially, when the injuries are caused by acts by the mascots rather than foul balls or broken bats.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a Chicago personal injury or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury attorney, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.