Fan Sues Professional Baseball Team after Eye Injury Caused by Mascot Throwing Hot Dog into Stands


November 23, 2013

There have been a growing number of incidents in ballparks and stadiums resulting in serious injuries which include falls from stadium bleachers, head injuries from errant fly balls and assaults committed by drunk and unruly spectators. While ball park owners may be liable for injuries experienced by spectators, the circumstances of the incident and nature of the hazard determine whether the venue owner or organizer of the event at the stadium are liable for such injuries or attacks.

A recent accident involving a wayward . . . hot dog at a Kansas City Royals baseball game provides a useful illustration for understanding the liability of those who own and operate sports and entertainment venues for injuries that occur to patrons. Generally, venue owners are not responsible for injuries caused by foul balls because of a rule adopted in many states called the "baseball rule," which provides limited protection from liability to the proprietors of stadiums. While the specific application of the legal standard varies based on the law of the state, the rule basically provides sports teams with a defense to many lawsuits based on events that occur on the rink, field or court.

This rule is essentially a specific application of the assumption of the risk defense in the context of injuries that occur at sports arenas and other venues. Because those who attend baseball games typically are aware of the risk of being hit by a foul ball, fans that attend baseball games may be found to assume this risk of injury. In states, that follow the "baseball rule," sport teams and stadium operators are only obligated to install netting to protect patrons from foul balls immediately behind home plate where the danger is most serious. Further, sports stadiums and other event venues typically provide waivers and assumption of the risk disclaimers on the back of ticket stubs.

However, the fact that patrons at baseball games and other sporting events may assume some types of risks does not mean that owners and operators of sports venues are not liable for injuries caused by other types of hazards that have filled the news late,ly including falls that may be caused by defective or poorly maintained railings or stairways and violent assaults caused by inadequate security. The sports team may be liable for this type of injury because these are not the types of hazards that participants at sporting events expect to experience when attending a Braves or Falcons game.

The bizarre circumstances of the flying hot dog lawsuit meant that it falls squarely into a grey area between cases like foul ball projectile injuries and falls from bleachers. While people may anticipate an object like a baseball being fouled off when a batter swings, fans do not necessarily expect to be struck in the eye by a wrapped hot dog heaved into the stands by a mascot. The outcome of the case could change practices in baseball parks because the incident resulted in a serious eye injury that necessitated two surgical procedures according to an Associated Press (AP) report. According to the report, the first eye surgery was to repair a detached retina while the second involved removal of a cataract and implantation of an artificial lens. In addition to significant medical bills, the injured fan has suffered permanent damage to his vision.

Put Our Law Firm's Over 30 Years of Legal Experience to Work For Your Case

Although stadium owners may be responsible for injuries to fans, determination of the precise scope of liability can be complicated. If you or a loved one has been injured at a baseball park, hockey rink or football stadium, our Atlanta personal injury attorneys at Montlick and Associates have been representing injury victims for over thirty years throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Personal Injury

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Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.