Former San Francisco Giant’s baseball player, Mac Williamson, has sued his old team for a catastrophic head injury he suffered in 2018. On April 24, 2018, Williamson tripped over the bullpen mound placed in the outfield at San Francisco’s AT&T Park causing him to hit his head against the wall in left field foul territory. Williamson filed suit against China Basin Ballpark Company (“CBBC”) the subsidiary that owns and operates AT&T Park.
According to the lawsuit, Williamson suffered a severe concussion, which allegedly ended his career playing major league baseball. The lawsuit claims the following:
“It has long been known that bullpen mounds on the field of play create an unreasonable risk of harm… Prior to building the Park, CBBC knew, or at a minimum should have known, that placing bullpens on the field of play was a safety hazard for players.”
Typically when filing a premises liability lawsuit and eventually proving the claim in court, the Plaintiff must show that there was a defect on the premises and that the owner knew about the defect and chose not correct it or failed to provide any warnings. In this case notice is not the issue as the Giants placed the bullpen mounds in the outfield foul territory when the stadium opened in 2000 and kept them there until 2019. The question is whether having the mounds out there would be considered a defect. Although not very common anymore, there have always been bullpen mounds in foul territory at major league baseball stadiums. The players obviously know about them, but the question is whether they could still be considered a defect. This is most commonly a question of fact for the jury to decide. So, at the very least, Williamson should be able to avoid any motions to dismiss and summary judgment motions by the defense as long as they have an expert opinion concluding that leaving the mounds on the field are a defect on the premises.
Regardless, the defense will definitely file what are called affirmative defenses, which can reduce their amount of fault. Those affirmative defenses could include comparative fault (Williamson was at fault for tripping over the mound) or also the “plain view” defense as the mounds were in the Plaintiff’s view prior to tripping and he should have avoided it. I think the affirmative defenses will be hard for the defense to prove in this case because because the Williamson’s attorney’s will argue that he was doing everything in his power to help his team win by attempting to catch the baseball and record and out, and while doing so, it was impossible to avoid the mound that he tripped over.
This is a unique case that I haven’t seen before. The damages here could be significant if they can prove that Williamson lost out on multiple years of salary as a major league baseball player. This could total into the millions of dollars. Williamson will also be asking for pain and suffering and loss of a normal life. This is also significant as he is not longer able to partake in his life’s passion – – playing baseball. Plus, his comments indicate that his day to day struggle with his brain injury has been significant.
One final issue to remember is that depending on California workers’ compensation law, Williamson could be owed money from the team for his work injury. Workers’ compensation does not require proof of wrongdoing by the employer. The employee merely has to prove that his accident happened on the job and was caused by his employment. Though the damages awarded are not as high as they would be in civil court, he could be owed payment of his medical bills, lost time from work and a lump sum permanency award for his head injury. There is also the possibility that he could be awarded a wage differential at trial (or via settlement), which is typically 2/3 of the difference of what he was earning in major league baseball less what he can earn in the open market. Again, this could be significant since most jobs do not pay anywhere near what professional baseball players earn. Williamson may have already filed a work comp claim, although it is unclear in any of the media I have read about this case.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a Chicago slip and fall case or suffered an Illinois work injury or have an Illinois Workers’ Compensation claim, then call Chicago accident attorney, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.