Sports Spectator Safety for the Stanley Cup Playoffs
We might not see much ice in Florida, but that doesn’t stop us from getting excited about hockey—especially when it involves our very own Tampa Bay Lightning! With the Stanley Cup playoffs in full swing, hockey fever has totally taken over Tampa Bay.
But for one fan, this weekend’s game got a little too close for comfort. The fan, a woman attending game two of the playoffs with her family, was sitting on the first level of Amalie Arena to watch the Lightning take on the New Jersey Devils. During the game, a stray puck sailed into the stands, striking her in the face. While pictures from the incident show painful facial bruising, her injuries were thankfully not life-threatening. Still, it’s unlikely that she enjoyed the rest of the game, even though the Lightning won.
Spectator Risks at Hockey Games
In hockey, most of the action, including the occasional fight or collision, takes place on the ice. However, spectators are also at risk during hockey games. Throughout its long history in the United States and Canada, the National Hockey League has only seen one spectator death. But every once in a while, we hear about injuries from pucks, sticks, or other flying objects from the rink. Moving at high speeds, these objects can cause serious injuries, from bruises to traumatic brain injuries.
According to a report by the Daily Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper, spectator injuries are more likely to occur at hockey games below the professional level, like at high school sporting events or games for minor league teams. This is because unlike NHL teams, less professionals teams might not have the funding for protective measures, including netting around the rink. Spectators at these events are often protected by low netting or glass and may be closer to the ice in a smaller arena. This increases the risk of serious injury from an errant object.
As this recent injury at the Lightning playoffs shows, though, injuries can happen anywhere, from the high school rink to a massive stadium. It’s not just hockey, either. Other sports that involve balls, sticks, bats, or other equipment, like baseball or lacrosse, can also put fans at risk if appropriate safety measures are not in place.
“Injury is Not Done”
So who is liable for a fan’s injury? Based on the legal concept of “volenti non fit injuria,” much of the responsibility falls on the fans. From the Latin phrase “to a willing person, injury is not done,” volenti non fit injuria means that someone cannot hold another person liable if they willingly placed themselves into a potentially risky situation. By buying a ticket and attending a game, a fan is attending the event even though they know there is a risk of getting hit by a stray object. If they are injured, they are essentially blamed for their own injuries, because they made the choice to be there. Is this fair to the fans? Maybe not. But most stadiums, arenas, and other sports facilities do put fine-print warnings on the back of tickets, which absolves them of liability in many situations.
However, some sports spectator injuries might earn compensation. The stadium should still take basis precautions, like having protective glass or netting. When there is an issue that may cause vulnerability to fans, it is their duty to fix it. At the very least, they should warn spectators about the issue. If a fan can prove that the safety measures were inadequate, then they may be able to hold the location responsible for their injuries.
Tips for Staying Safe
If you have been lucky enough to score a ticket to see the Lighting in the playoffs or are planning to catch a Rays game at Tropicana Field this season, there are a few things you can do to take your safety in your own hands:
Always pay attention! When attending a sporting event, do not text or spend prolonged periods of time looking down at something, like a flyer or playbook.
To avoid slip and falls, follow the rules of any signage in the stadium, and watch your step. If you are drinking alcohol at the sporting event, remember that it could inhibit your coordination. In parking lots, be cautious, as you should be in any parking lot. Be particularly cautious while leaving a parking lot after the game, as there is likely to be a lot of activity.
You should also avoid any violent confrontations. Seeing your favorite sports team may make you passionate, but don’t engage with other fans trying to pick a fight. Ignore people who are being rude or aggressive. You can report them to security.
Follow these tips and be aware of potential dangers. That way, you can cheer on your team without injury!
The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.