Watch Out For Foul Balls!
Do you remember the first time you saw your favorite sports team? No matter the sport, you probably have fond memories of raucous cheering, juicy stadium hotdogs, and the excitement of seeing your favorite players. Sports are a favorite American pastime, and for good reason. They promote teamwork and respect, and bring fans of all backgrounds together. But for the occasional unlucky sports spectator, going to the big game can result in injury. Sports like baseball and hockey are great. But sometimes the injuries — and the legal issues that follow — are not fun at all.
On the field, it’s amazing to see how hard and fast a player can hit the ball or puck. But when that same object collides with a spectator, it can cause serious pain. Sports spectator injuries are usually linked with baseball and hockey. Foul balls, errant pucks, and broken bats and sticks are often the culprits. While plenty of spectator injuries are just bumps or bruises, accidents can lead to facial or skull trauma.
Thankfully, sports spectator injuries are rare. Throughout its history, the Major League Baseball Association (MLB) has only had one spectator death. The National Hockey League (NHL) has also seen only one spectator death. When fans are injured or even killed, it draws scrutiny toward issues of premise liability and spectator safety. However, stadiums and ballparks tend to have a good defense to lawsuits from injured fans.
Who is liable?
Like the concept of volenti non fit injuria* in sports, the responsibility for injuries falls on the fans. When a fan is injured at a game, it is often argued that they chose to attend the game, fully knowing that they could be injured by a stray ball or other object. When a fan is injured, the location can argue that essentially, it was the fan’s fault, since they chose to take the risk of attending the game. They will argue that the fan should have anticipated the risk. Is this fair to the fans? Maybe not. But most stadiums and ballparks do put fine-print warning on the backs of tickets, which absolves them of liability in many situations.
However, some sports spectator injuries might earn you compensation. The stadium should still take basis precautions, like having protective glass or netting. When there is damage to the protection that could cause vulnerability to fans, it is their duty to fix it, or warn spectators about the issue. If a fan can prove that the location was inadequate (for example, not letting fans know about a hole in the protective netting), then a fan may be able to hold the location responsible for their injuries. If you believe that a sports injury was caused through negligence, you should talk with an attorney.
As a sports spectator, you can also take some responsibilities into 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!
*If you followed us on Facebook for #LegalTermTuesday, you would know what this means! 😀 But we’ll tell you anyway. Volenti non fit injuria is a law doctrine that states that someone who puts themselves in a dangerous position cannot sue for any resulting injuries. It often refers to sports injuries.
The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in 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.