September 21, 2017

NYC bill would make protective nets mandatory at all baseball stadiums in city

A young fan was severely injured at Yankee Stadium after a foul ball hit by Yankee’s third baseman Todd Frazier went 105 miles per hour into the stands. The victim, described as a toddler, was hit squarely in the head while sitting in the lower levels near home plate with her grandparents.

Players and coaches from both sides, particularly Frazier and Yankees’ skipper Joe Girardi, were visibly shaken both during and after the game. In a post game interview, Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier openly called for all teams to immediately install safety netting over objections such instruments would obstruct the view of fans sitting near the dugouts.

Thankfully, initial reports indicate the child did not lose consciousness and does not appear to be in a life threatening situation. Players and coaches from each team said prayers on the field and sent their well wishes to the fan and her family, a strong sign of unity among teams that owners need to take responsibility and modify their property for the good of the fans and the game.

City councilman claims as many as 1,750 fans hurt every year by flying objects

In May 2017, New York City Councilman Rafael Espinal introduced a bill that would require teams playing in the city to install protective netting at least 70-feet down each foul line to protect fans from serious injuries. While the New York Mets took the initiative to install such precautions at Citi Field, the Yankees and about 20 other Major League teams have yet to do so.

In his essay published in the New York Daily News, Councilman Espinal claims flying objects and Major League and Minor League stadiums hurt as many as 1,750 fans every year. “Not only are these injuries preventable,” he wrote, “but the MLB, Yankees and Mets have been slow to implement a simple solution that would prevent families’ fun-filled ballpark outings from turning into nightmares.”

While it may be difficult to quantify exactly how many spectators suffer serious injuries at ball parks, there have recently been a number of high profile incidents involving fans bloodied and bruised by balls and bats. The combination of the fans’ proximity to the field, the velocity of baseballs coming off bats, and a false sense of security at games may be just some of the factors at play in these cases.

This year, a woman from Ellicott City, Maryland filed a personal injury lawsuit against the Baltimore Orioles, claiming the club failed to take precautions to protect her and other fans after she was struck by a baseball bat in the face. The victim allegedly suffered skull and orbital fractures, subarachnoid hemorrhage, brain swelling, permanent traumatic brain injury when Orioles’ first baseman Chris Davis lost control of his bat.

Can I file a lawsuit if I am hurt at a baseball game?

Fortunately for baseball fans visiting National’s Park in Washington, D.C., the team installed the netting prior to the 2017 season. Even with such measures in place, fans should remain vigilant and keep their eyes on the game while in play to keep themselves and others safe.

Even with so many injuries taking place at baseball parks, personal injury lawsuits against MLB parks are rare. One possible reason could be that teams choose to proactively settle injury claims with injured spectators before the victim every files a claim. Another possibility could be language printed on tickets absolving the club of any liability and alerting fans to be aware for flying objects.

Although many jurisdictions allow entities to indemnify themselves with waivers of liability, sometimes called injury waivers, these are not always enforceable and other state and local laws may override such contractual agreements. Fans hurt by baseballs, bats, or slip and falls at stadiums should strongly consider speaking to an experienced DC injury attorney about their case to find out if they have an actionable claim against the stadium where the accident took place.