Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

No Relief – Issue of Town’s Liability Regarding Condition of High School Baseball Field for the Jury (MA)

October 19, 2015

Murray v. Town of Hudson (Massachusetts)

A relief pitcher for a high school baseball team injured his knee while warming up in the visiting team bullpen.  He filed a lawsuit against the town that maintained the park at which the baseball field was located, alleging that the injury was caused by the town’s negligence and its wanton and reckless conduct in allowing the visiting team to use a dangerous bullpen.  The town filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that the negligence claim was barred by the Massachusetts recreational use statute, and that the evidence did not support a finding of wanton or reckless conduct.  The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, and the pitcher appealed.

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Crying Foul – Federal Litigation in California Seeks to Change Baseball’s “Limited Duty Rule” (CA)

July 15, 2015

Crying Foul – Federal Litigation in California Seeks to Change Baseball’s “Limited Duty Rule” (ESPN.com Article)

The sport of baseball has long felt the benefit of the “limited duty rule.”  The rule protects baseball teams and stadium operators from liability to spectators for injuries caused by balls and bats that fly into the seats.  The rule generally requires the team or stadium operator to provide a sufficient number of protected seats for those spectators who want them, and to provide protection for all spectators located in the most dangerous parts of the stadium, notably the areas that pose the highest risk of injury from fouls balls, such as the seating directly behind home plate.

There have been numerous challenges to the rule over the years, and now we have a new one in California.  As described in the ESPN.com article here, an Oakland Athletics season-ticket holder has filed a federal court action seeking class-action status on behalf of all fans buying season tickets in unprotected areas of the ballpark.  The goal appears to be the installation of safety netting from foul pole to foul pole.

Unwanted Souvenir – Woman Struck by Foul Ball During MLB Batting Practice; Claim Barred (WA)

July 7, 2015

Reed-Jennings v. Baseball Club of Seattle, L.P. (Washington)
(unreported decision)

The plaintiff was seriously injured while attending a Seattle Mariners Major League Baseball game.  She was struck by a foul ball hit into the stands during batting practice.  Plaintiff filed a negligence based lawsuit against the team, but the trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the team did not breach its limited duty of care to the plaintiff and that the plaintiff’s claims were barred by the assumption of risk doctrine.  Plaintiff appealed.
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And the Runner is Out – Claim By Spectator at a Little League Game Barred by Recreational Use Statute (RI)

May 11, 2015

Carlson v. Town of South Kingston (Rhode Island)

The plaintiff was attending her son’s little league game being played at a park and field owned and maintained by the defendant town.  As she was walking from a batting cage area over to a concession stand to meet her son, she stepped in a “divot” and broke her leg.  Testimony established that the “divot” was created by kids waiting to get into the batting cages when they would dig their cleats into the ground.  Plaintiff filed an action against the town, alleging the town negligently maintained the premises.  The town moved for summary judgment based on Rhode Island’s Recreational Use Statute (“RUS”).  Plaintiff objected to the motion citing two exceptions to the RUS and alleging: (1) the town had “willfully or maliciously failed to guard or warn against a dangerous condition on the land,” and (2) the town had charged plaintiff for her access to the park.  The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

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Target Practice

September 20, 2012

Bukowski v. Clarkson University (New York)
(A university baseball pitcher was injured by a line drive while participating in a practice, and he sued the university and his head coach;  the court found that the pitcher had assumed the inherent risk of being hit by the baseball and affirmed the trial court’s directed verdit in favor of the defendants.)

The plaintiff was injured after throwing a fastball to a batter during “live” indoor practice without a protective screen.  The batter struck the ball which hit the plaintiff in the jaw and broker his tooth.  After the lawsuit was filed, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which was denied.  At trial, plaintiff argued “that the risk of being hit by a batted ball was enhanced due to the multicolored pitching backdrop and low lighting at the indoor facility, which made it harder to see the white ball, and the failure to use an L-screen.”

At the close of evidence, the trial court granted defendants’ motion for a directed verdict “on the ground that plaintiff assumed the commonly appreciated risk in baseball of being hit by a line drive.”  Plaintiff appealed.

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Little League Lawsuit Settlement

August 23, 2012

$14.5 Million Settlement for Injured Minor (New Jersey)
(A 12 year old pitcher playing in a youth baseball game was struck in the chest by a ball projected from a metal bat; his family’s lawsuit against the bat manufacturer, Little League Baseball, and the Sports Authority sporting goods chain was settled.)

As reported here on ESPN.com, the terms of the settlement agreement preclude the parties from discussing its details, including whether any of the defendants admitted liability.  It appears that the issue revolved around whether the metal bat used at the time of the incident was appropriate and safe.  Little League Baseball certifies certain bats for approved use in games involving children.  The injured boy encountered cardiac arrest that led to permanent brain damage, and the settlement will help provide long term care for him for the rest of his life.

If You’re Asked, Put On Your Mask

June 28, 2011

Inherent Risks in Baseball (California – Motion for Summary Judgment)
(Injury to catcher not wearing a mask during a bullpen session deemed to be an inherent risk of the sport of baseball.)

Paul Tetreault and Don Ornelas of the law firm of Agajanian, McFall, Weiss, Tetreault & Crist LLP in Los Angeles recently obtained summary judgment on behalf of several clients in the Rancho Cucamonga District of the San Bernardino County Superior Court.  Plaintiff was injured while practicing with his baseball club team, the Chino Dirt Dawgs, when a baseball struck him in the mouth while he was catching during a bullpen session.  Evans was not wearing a catcher’s mask at the time.  He asserted a claim for general negligence against the Dirt Dawgs, and two of its coaches, Brent Billingsley and Kyle Billingsley.

The defendants filed for summary judgment based upon primary assumption of the risk, asserting that plaintiff’s injury was the result of an inherent risk in the sport of baseball and that there was no evidence that they had done anything to “increase the risks” inherent in the sport.  The trial court agreed, and granted the motion, despite plaintiff’s claim that the coaches’ failure to force plaintiff to wear the mask during the bullpen session “increased the risks.”  The court ruled that getting struck in the mouth with a baseball is a risk that is always inherent in the sport of baseball, and plaintiff’s failure to wear a mask at the time of injury did not establish a triable issue of fact as to whether the defendants increased the risks inherent in the sport.

Injured Baseball Fan Cries Foul

July 6, 2008

Roberts v. Boys and Girls Republic (New York)
(Court Denies Recovery for Baseball Fan Struck by a Bat Accidentally Thrown by Batter in an Off-Field, On-Deck Circle.)

The plaintiff, was an observer at a baseball game as was struck by a bat accidentally thrown from the on-deck circle located just off of the playing field. The trial court granted the defendant baseball association’s motion, dismissing the case based upon the doctrine of assumption of the risk. The plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the Court affirmed the decision and noted that the plaintiff could not recover “because plaintiff concededly observed batting equipment and players swinging bats in the area where the accident occurred.”

NOTE: This decision is in line with the majority position that spectators at a baseball game assume the risk of balls and equipment flying into the stands from the field of play. There has been some minor erosion of this majority position in some jurisdictions (e.g., liability being established if a mascot was distracting the spectators during play), but the cases have been rather consistent in this area of the law.