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February 28, 2013

Idaho Lets Man Sue Over Foul Ball Injury: An Idaho man who was hit by a baseball at a 2008 minor league game and lost an eye is challenging the back-of-ticket legal waiver: "The holder assumes all risk and dangers incidental to the game of baseball including specifically (but not exclusively) the danger of being injured by thrown or batted balls." The Idaho Supreme Court is allowing Bud Rountree's negligence suit against the Boise Hawks and the stadium owner though other jurisdictions have thrown out similar cases. The court ruled, "Whether watching baseball is inherently dangerous, and the degrees of fault to be apportioned to Rountree and Boise Baseball, are questions for the jury."

posted by rcade to baseball at 12:18 PM - 24 comments

It would be an interesting case for the people thinking about suing NASCAR for the Daytona incident. Questions:

1. Does Idaho have a history of favoring consumers?
2. Could sports exist without that waiver?

Without evidence of negligence, can fault really be assigned to the team for holding a baseball game?

posted by yerfatma at 12:53 PM on February 28

I hear he's represented by Dewey, Cheatem and howe.

posted by hardrane at 01:26 PM on February 28

I doubt he will win this case. It seems to me that an individual attending a baseball game assumes the risk of getting hit with a foul ball irregardless of whether his ticket has a waiver of liability on the back.

Foul balls are an integral part of baseball games. People bring gloves to games for the purpose of catching them. The stadium warns fans that bats, balls, and other objects may enter the stands. I'm surprised the Court is letting this get to a jury.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 01:37 PM on February 28

(I have no ideas about this case, so I could be totally wrong. The Yahoo story is silent as to the facts.)

What if he was in the second row, behind home plate, and the foul ball came through a pre-existing hole in the screen? I think a waiver wouldn't work in that situation.

If he's down the left field line, and flubbed the catch, probably not. But I think it depends on the situation. Which, I think, is what the Idaho Supreme Court is saying.

posted by ChinaGrover at 02:40 PM on February 28

I think a waiver wouldn't work in that situation.

Why not? The waiver suggests getting hit by a foul ball is your responsibility. They may take steps to mitigate that risk, but ultimately the risk is still yours. You sign up for that when you buy a ticket - if you don't like that, there are radios and TVs.

posted by dfleming at 02:55 PM on February 28

I think ChinaGrover has a point, in the hypothetical scenario presented. The netting provides an expectation of protection that is not offered in the rest of the stadium.

This article has some more details of the incident:

Rountree was injured while attending a Boise Hawks game with his wife and grandkids on Aug. 13, 2008. Rountree left his seat in the mesh-netting protected section of the stadium and was talking to someone in an area not protected by netting when he heard the crowd begin to roar. That's when Rountree turned toward the field and was struck in the face with a foul ball, according to the ruling, and the resulting injury caused him to lose an eye.

If that is an accurate characterization, I would say that it is his fault for not paying attention.

posted by bender at 03:35 PM on February 28

Bender has it about right. The cardinal rule at an event in which some object or person can enter the spectator area is PAY ATTENTION! My son, then about 9, was very nearly clocked by a batting practice line drive into the left field seats down the line at Fenway. All that saved him was a guy one row in front of him with a very quick glove. One of my pet peeves when I was umpiring youth baseball was little kids behind the chain link fence that served as a backstop with thir hands gripping the fence, thus exposing their fingers. I think I averaged about one warning per week to the little snots, and had to explain the situation to their parents. Most of the parents could understand, but there was always the guy (or worse, the mom) who thought it was his or her kid's divine right to have his hand maimed. Umpires, especially in amateur baseball, are held liable for the safety of the ground during play, within reasonable circumstances. There was no way I was going to pay some kid who never had mom or dad say no to him to have orthopedic surgery on his hand.

posted by Howard_T at 03:56 PM on February 28

Yeah, I'm with ChinaGrover -- there shouldn't be a blanket "Nope, you were in a ballpark, therefore any injury is your own fault" rule. That said, I hope the jury finds for the defendant and Rountree gets nothing. And that said:

Boise Baseball warned that a decision against it could open the door to lawsuits by amateur and professional athletes "voluntarily playing sports like baseball, softball, basketball . . . despite the fact that there are inherent risks to these sports" that are known and consented to by players.
Oh, shut up, Boise Baseball. Just shut up.

posted by Etrigan at 05:35 PM on February 28

This face saving move is worth posting again.

posted by beaverboard at 06:00 PM on February 28

Why not? The waiver suggests getting hit by a foul ball is your responsibility.

No waiver is absolute. If the backstop fence behind home plate was faulty and a stadium ignored warnings about it, an injured fan would have a decent case.

Regarding the quote from Bender's link, there's no way the fan heard the crowd beginning to roar, turned towards the field in response and then was struck by a scorching foul ball. If you don't see a foul ball off the bat, it'll be in your face before you can react to the crowd.

posted by rcade at 06:56 PM on February 28

Yeah, after reading the apparent facts, he probably won't (shouldn't) win. In a small park like that, if you aren't paying attention, you are to blame. I've schmoozed at baseball games before, and it is perfectly acceptable to be facing the plate while talking out of the side of your face. Safety first.

posted by ChinaGrover at 08:15 PM on February 28

Regarding the quote from Bender's link, there's no way the fan heard the crowd beginning to roar, turned towards the field in response and then was struck by a scorching foul ball.

It might have been popped up. I can totally imagine the crowd roaring and just turning your head and BAM death from above.

posted by Etrigan at 08:16 PM on February 28

This is like the girl who died in 2002 after being struck by a puck during a Columbus Blue Jacket game. If I recall, as settlement was reached and NHL clubs were required to put netting behind the goals.

There is inherent dangers in attending most sports events. What if a Packer did the Lambeau Leap and struck one of the fans who catch him with his helmet? I would present that the fan took the risk.

posted by jjzucal at 12:32 AM on March 01

How does this get into a court? The waiver specifically mentions injury caused by a batted ball. By purchasing the ticket, has the chap not entered into a contract and thereby accepted the conditions of that waiver?

Perhaps his eye socket could sue his hand for accepting the ticket. Or launch a class action with his cheek, brow, nose and brain against his fingers, his hand and his trouser pocket.

Also, I look forward to reading the court's definition of "inherently dangerous". Life's inherently dangerous; we'll be lucky to get out of it alive.

posted by JJ at 07:55 AM on March 01

I'm terribly disappointed in this thread. It's almost 24 hours old and no one has bad-mouthed the old lady who got hot coffee spilt on her at McDonalds. What's happened to this place? In the interests of restoring us to our proper level of decorum, it's more than twenty years later and still, whenever a fan gets hit at a sporting event, this tape spools in my head.

God bless the Internet. And God bless you all.

posted by yerfatma at 07:59 AM on March 01

I'm terribly disappointed in this thread. It's almost 24 hours old and no one has bad-mouthed the old lady who got hot coffee spilt on her at McDonalds.

I tried but just couldn't fit it in. *hangs head in shame*

posted by dfleming at 10:18 AM on March 01

There is inherent dangers in attending most sports events.

True, but there's less danger than there used to be, and one of the reasons is litigation (not saying that's always a good thing). I'm a bit surprised baseball hasn't extended the backstop fences further down the line. Between scorching foul balls and Josh Hamilton throwing his bat, one of these days it's going to get ugly.

posted by rcade at 10:37 AM on March 01

If you're interested, the Marquette Sports Law Review has a review of litigation history on this topic - apparently it's territory that's been crossed before. Page 41 shows a precedence where a ball got through the netting, someone's nose was broken, and damages were awarded. I will promptly eat my hat.

posted by dfleming at 11:59 AM on March 01

We had a case that sounds a lot like this in Nevada (Turner v. Mandalay Sports Entertainment, 180 P.3d 1172). The Las Vegas 51's included an assumption of risk waiver on their tickets. A spectator in a beer garden was hit (while not watching the game) by a foul ball and sued. She lost her negligence claim on summary judgment (pre-trial) based on the fact that she both read the disclaimer and was aware of the inherent danger of watching baseball.

posted by tahoemoj at 02:04 PM on March 01

Obligatory link to facts about McDonalds Coffee Case. Obligatory statement about know the facts. That's all I got.

That obligation out of the way, there are lawsuits that sound frivolous and lawsuits that actually are frivolous and sometimes those two sets of lawsuits overlap. I will be very curious to see what the court system does with this case. Based on what I've read in the articles (which may or may not be 100% accurate), it seems pretty clear that this event falls under the "damn shame that it happened, but not really anybody's fault" category.

posted by Joey Michaels at 02:11 PM on March 01

Obligatory link to facts about McDonalds Coffee Case.

They gave us a copy of that my first week in torts class in law school. Fascinating compared to the heavily spun and under reported version that filtered its way out to the public from the talking heads.

posted by tahoemoj at 02:18 PM on March 01

I have an uncle who's a big-time McD exec and we are under strict orders not to ever bring up the coffee case, or even the topic of "frivolous lawsuits" in general, lest you want to subject yourself to a lengthy colorful array of expletives and see a man drive himself into heart attack mode.

posted by jmd82 at 02:59 PM on March 01

I have an uncle who's a big-time McD exec and we are under strict orders not to ever bring up the coffee case, or even the topic of "frivolous lawsuits" in general,

So that leaves plenty of time to discuss the finer points of heart disease, obesity, and target marketing heavily processed, sodium laden, preservative saturated crap to children and minorities? I'm lovin' it!

posted by tahoemoj at 05:10 PM on March 01

and see a man drive himself into heart attack mode.

Something tells me it isn't just your talking points driving the big-time McD exec into heart attack mode...

posted by Goyoucolts at 09:19 PM on March 01

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