Fans of baseball never really consider when attending a game that they are going there at their own risk. Most people go to enjoy the game; the vendors, the sideshows and watching their favorite teams play. Phone calls on their cell phones, taking videos and not always watching the action, even divert some. Entering the ballpark I do think there is a sign attending this game at your own risk. But, fans at times do get hurt some more seriously than others and when a foul ball comes speeding your way you better be aware and get out of the way. Broken bats flying, foul balls, fast balls coming your way, fights with other fans over a ball that everyone wants and goes out of bounds, who is responsible is it the team, the league or the person injured that takes ownership of their injuries? Miami attorney Jack Herskowitz opens the eyes of owners of teams, fans, spectators as he takes us inside the rule books, the areas where nets and safety precautions are supposed to have taken and describes real life incidents, real life stories of people getting injured, seriously injured and some injuries that were fatal. As I started reading this book I had no idea about the definition and different interpretations of the Baseball Rule nor did I realize that so many would take one side or the other. Some want certain seats that are assigned in more vulnerable areas to injury to be netted or screened while others claim the nets obstruct their view. But, while in some cases nets were erected they still did not safe a fan from injury because in many cases the netting was defective and no one noticed it before or during the game until something happened.
The author presents some true cases where younger fans and older fans were sitting in the stands, walking to their seats, going to the restrooms or just watching the games and were seriously injured when a foul ball rocketed in their direction, a broken bat split and pieces went flying or the entire bat came at them. In many cases the person was permanently injured, lost sight, head injuries, facial fractures and much more. Applying the baseball rule and claiming that you enter the stadium and attend a game at your own risk at times did wash when the team, the manager or batter were sued and at other times, if the courts were listening the person received some damages and at other times the decisions were reversed.
Although baseball is a national pastime, each individual major league team or teams and Major League Baseball itself believe it or not has enjoyed legal immunity and protection from injury lawsuits filed by fans. The courts held and I quote, “ that when a spectator enters the ballpark, he/she knows that during a baseball game there is a risk of a ball or bat coming from the field into the stands, which could cause injury. Since by attending a ball fame, the fan is aware of the possibility of injure, he ASSUMES THE RISK of being injured and therefore cannot recover for his injuries.” This is referred to as the Baseball Rule. When courts refer to this rule they have referred to the injured spectator “assuming the risk,” that is being, responsible for known risks such as foul balls an flying bats coming into the stands.
The author sites many cases that will illuminate how the teams and the owners manage to skirt taking responsibility for injures that are not minor but grave. Foul balls are a fundamental risk of baseball. Being struck by one is a well-known risk of attending a game. Some fans opt to sit in an unprotected part of the stadium and therefore are responsible for their own safety. Courts have ruled for years that professional teams cannot be held accountable for injuries sustained by sans struck by a foul ball or a bat leaving the field of play. Pages 20- 32 explains this in detail, as I will site some of the cases described. There were cases defined where people were hit in the face, serious head injuries and in several the victims died. Before going to a baseball game maybe you need to up your life insurance policy in case something unforeseen happens or even accident insurance if that applies.
On October 14, 1945, in a game between the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, Mrs. Brown was at the fame as a guest of friends sitting near the first base line. Game in progress and she was struck in her head while the players were changing sides. She was hit by a baseball during the between innings infield by a ball thrown from a second baseman to first base, touching the first baseman’s glove and glancing into the stands. “Invoking the assumption of the risk doctrine the court indicated that the patron at a game participates in the sport as a spectator,” it is as if she was taking infield practice. She had no idea about this assumed risk and was not senile and definitely only 46 at the time and she paid no attention to the game and was visiting with her friends. The rationale the author relates of the court was that a person can voluntarily assume the risk of danger in a situation that may not appear dangerous and they are ignorant of the nonapparent danger that happens to them.
Did you ever read the back of a baseball ticket and read the warning and the disclaimer> Well the next time you do make sure you read what I am going to quote so that before you buy and purchase the ticket you realize that if you get hurt by a foul ball, thrown bat or flying bat you are responsible and take the risk of getting hurt. : The holder assumes all risk and danger incidental to the Game whether occurring prior to, during or subsequent to the actual playing of the Game, including specifically but not exclusively, the danger of being injured by thrown bats, or fragments thereof, and thrown or batted balls, the dropped or launched items or projectile, other hazards or distractions that CWS and other entities named are not liable for people and agrees damage or other loss resulting from such causes. Therefore, it is telling you if you get hurt after purchasing the ticket you are take the risk and assume the risk of injury and have given full release of liability to the entities to the fullest extent permitted by law. The remainder of Chapter 2 elaborates on this disclaimer and the Baseball Rule. Author and Miami attorney Jack Herskowitz spells it out and even imparts to readers his near tragic experience during a game and the enormous dangers that spectators might encounter as you learn more about the serious stories that he tells, some even fatal because Major League Baseball teams and stadium operators do little if anything to protect fans because they are immune to being liable and they know that the law protects them from lawsuits.
Distractions are everywhere when coming to a game when watching the action on the field, the billboards or the mascots. There are many other distractions that can cause spectators to veer from watching the teams at bat such as fireworks, giant scoreboards or even cheerleaders. So, what happens when someone gets distracted and gets hurt? Read what happened to Shirley Martinez when she was hurt and hit during a batting practice homerun before a Houston Astros game at Minute Maid Park. Two hundred and fifty tickets to benefit members of the 72 Brigade Special Troops battalion were donated. Players participating in the practice at the time as Shirley was about to descend the stairs to her seat from the concourse. But, not allowed to take her stroller down she was detained by an usher. The stroller was placed in the storage area. Seating her older children she began ascending the stairs holding her youngest child. Her attention was on climbing the stairs and her back to the playing field. Someone yelled warning fly ball coming toward her. She shielded her child with her arms but she was struck in the face by the ball and suffered grave injuries. The court, the final outcome and how they claim that when hearing the warning about the ball coming towards her was enough to allow them to apply the Baseball Rule stating that when a fan is injured from a foul ball during batting practice, it was not applied when an injury occurred to a fan between games of a doubleheader. Read the rest on page 41. There are numerous other cases that are vividly described and the pictures bring many of the people hurt and their injuries to life.
Part two focuses on ballpark food and vendors, mascots and promotional events as well as violence at the ballpark. What happens when fans break out in a fight because they want to get an autograph or a souvenir? What about a mad scramble for a gall hit into the stands, anyone in the way is likely to get trampled as on May 15, 1955, May Lee age 69 attended a doubleheader game. In the bottom half of the 8th inning in the first game a high foul ball landed two rows in front of her. She was knocked from her seat in the stampede to get the ball. Read what happens and what the court added that this situation is different from a spectator in an area unprotected by a screen and being struck by a batted ball. “The court determined it could not be held as a matter of law that Lee assumed the risk of being trampled. What do you think? How about when fans fight over which team is better mine or yours? What about Spectator Falls and Risky behavior in chapter 16 where the author shares that there have been devastating injuries and deaths at the ballpark as a result of spectator falls. The book concludes with the author’s conclusion and recommendations read them on pages 170-171 in order to learn what they are. But, I will highlight just one: either raise the height of railings in front of the first row in lower and upper decks and around the outfield walls or extend netting or perhaps clear Plexiglas upwards to a sufficient height above the railings. Makes sense and might actually save lives and prevent injuries. Read the rest and you decide just what else needs to be done to prevent you the spectator from DANGER AT THE BALLPARK! Enlightening, illuminating and definitely a book that everyone needs to read before purchasing that ticket for the next home game.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine