Can I Sue if I Was Hit by a Foul Ball at an MLB Game?
Sporting events draw crowds of millions of spectators each year. Major League Baseball (MLB) is one of the most popular sports leagues in the U.S., with a total of 30 teams participating. Attending an MLB game could be a fan’s dream come true – unless it ends in a serious head injury from a foul ball. The average speed of a baseball off the bat is 70 to 85 miles per hour. A foul ball striking a spectator could cause severe injuries that end the game with a trip to the hospital. If a foul ball struck you at an MLB game in California, find out if you have the right to file a lawsuit.
A Stadium’s Duty of Care to Spectators
It surprises many fans to learn sports stadiums do necessarily not have a duty to prevent foul or fly balls from striking audience members. Sports stadiums operate under the legal doctrine of assumption of risk. Assumption of risk holds that a person who knowingly agrees to the foreseeable risks of an event, such as the risk of a foul ball at an MLB game, cannot file a lawsuit for damages. That being said, a stadium owner should still fulfill certain duties to reasonably decrease the risk of a foul ball injuring a spectator.
- Installing protective netting behind home plate
- Extending netting further, if necessary, to improve safety
- Inspecting ball netting before each game
- Repairing holes or tears found in the nets
- Replacing old, damaged or worn-out nets
- Providing helmets to fans sitting in front of the netting, if allowed
- Posting signs warning spectators about the dangers of foul balls
- Having an usher blow a whistle when a ball leaves the field
- Training staff members to properly respond to medical emergencies
Failing to take reasonable steps to keep spectators safe could expose the stadium to liability despite the assumption of risk doctrine. This is because fans and guests have the legal right to expect the MLB to take due care to prevent foul ball injuries, even if the MLB is not successful every time. A breach of duty that contributes to a fan’s injury could make the stadium legally responsible for damages.
Navigating the Assumption of Risk Defense
When you purchase a ticket to see an MLB game, the fine print on your ticket serves as the stadium’s liability waiver. If you read this text, you will see language that protects the stadium and the MLB from liability should a spectator suffer an injury from something such as a foul ball or broken baseball bat. Purchasing the ticket and entering the property implies your understanding that the game you are attending could pose a safety risk. This assumption of risk could prevent you from filing a lawsuit if a foul ball strikes you.
If an investigation of the incident finds the stadium did everything a reasonable and prudent party would have done to prevent the foul ball from striking you, you most likely will not have grounds to file an injury claim. If, however, an investigation shows the stadium could have done more to protect spectators, it may be liable. Finding evidence of the MLB or stadium’s negligence in relation to your injury may take assistance from a local personal injury attorney.
A personal injury lawyer will know how to navigate the assumption of risk defense after a foul ball injury at a California MLB game. A lawyer can revisit the stadium, inspect for signs of negligence and take photographs of issues such as holes in protective netting. A lawyer can then help you negotiate a fair settlement from the at-fault party’s insurance company. If negotiations do not work, your lawyer can take the stadium owner or the MLB to court in pursuit of positive results. You will have two years from the date of your MLB game injury to file a personal injury lawsuit in California.