The Baseball Rule
In a matter of weeks, professional baseball teams all over the country will report for spring training. Soon after that, fans will begin pouring into stadiums to watch their favorite teams take the field. For many, trips to the ballpark are a fun and memorable experience. Many fans sit in the stand with hopes of catching that elusive fly ball. In fact, the back of your ticket, as well as numerous announcements throughout the game warn fans that objects, including batted baseballs and broken bats may enter the stands during game play.
As a result of this potential hazard, many states throughout the country have adopted the “baseball rule” otherwise known as the “limited duty rule” to protect stadium owners from liability for fans injured by objects entering into the stands. The baseball rule requires owners to provide protected seating for those patrons that want it. We’ve all seen the netting behind home plate that in some instances extends down the first and third base lines of the field. This netting is placed to protect guests in the most dangerous parts of the stadium, and to limit liability for the stadium owners in the event that a guest sits in a seat not protected by the netting.
However, the baseball rule is not absolute. For instance, the baseball rule may not apply to fans who are struck by an object that enters a designated picnic area inside the stadium. The baseball rule may not apply to fans injured by an object entering the stands while being escorted to their seats by the usher. The baseball rule may not apply when fans are struck by an object that enters the concourse areas of the stadium. While it is expected that fans in the designated seating areas are obligated to pay close attention to the game, and watch for objects entering the stands, acts such as sitting in a picnic area, or being escorted by an usher naturally distract a fan from the game begin played. This distraction is caused, at least in part, by the stadium owners and/or employees. Thus, a fan cannot be expected to be paying complete attention to the game, and the baseball rule would not apply.
Unfortunately, more and more fans are being injured by objects entering the stands. Often times, batted balls enter the stands at high rates of speed, and can cause devastating injuries. Even though the baseball rule is in place to protect stadium owners in most situations, the rule is not absolute. Therefore, it is critical that an injured guest hire a competent attorney who is well versed in stadium liability, and can properly assess the merits of a case and the potential legal defenses that you may encounter. At Stanger Law, our team of lawyers has years of experience handling stadium liability cases. This experience allows us to fully evaluate the merits of a case, and anticipate the probable defenses, including the application of the baseball rule.