Friday, November 2, 2012

Flying Balls (Amongst Other Things)

In the Thursday, November 1, 2012 San Francisco Examiner there was an article by Christopher B. Dolan,another edition of his Know Your Rights column which may become as conventional as it has been for protagonists to wear white hats and antagonists to wear black hats.

This is the kind of information that will support your argument with the fan who sits in front of you and jumps up like a hot pop-tart springs out of a toaster every time a foul ball seems to be heading towards the section and row of seats where you sit. This is exactly what the doctor ordered because you know when Poppy gets to hopping you are in danger of misjudging the ball due to Poppy blocking your sightline.

Question: "During Game 4 of the World Series in Detroit, I saw a bat go flying into the stands. If someone gets hit with a bat or ball in the stands, who is responsible legally?"

Answer: This issue was addressed by the California Supreme Court in 1935 in the case of Quinn v. Recreation Park Association. The court ruled that it has been generally held that one of the natural risks assumed by spectators attending professional games is that of being struck by batted or thrown balls, and that the management is not required to insure patrons against injury from such sources. All that is required is exercise of ordinary care to protect patrons against such injuries. In doing so, the management is not obliged to screen all seats, because, as pointed out by the decision, many patrons prefer to sit where their view is not obscured by a screen.

In Ratcliff v. San Diego Baseball Club of Pacific Coast League (1938), it was stated that it is well-settled that one who voluntarily occupies a seat outside of the protected area assumes the natural and well-known risk of being struck by thrown or batted balls. It seems also to be generally recognized that a duty rests upon the management to reasonably protect that part of the grandstand behind and near the home plate, where the greatest danger from flying balls exists. There is ample evidence that bats rather frequently slip from the hands of batters and that such occurrences are not unusual, although they may not occur in every game.

In Neinstein v. Los Angeles Dodgers Inc. (1985), the court held that, "The quality of a spectator's experience in witnessing a baseball game depends on his or her proximity to the field of play and the clarity of the view, not to mention the price of the ticket. As we see it, to permit plaintiff to recover under the circumstances here would force baseball stadium owners to do one of two things: place all spectator areas behind a protective screen thereby reducing the quality of everyone's view, and since players are often able to reach into the spectator area to catch foul balls, changing the very nature of the game itself; or continue the status quo and increase the price of tickets to cover the cost of compensating injured persons wit the attendant result that persons of meager means might be 'priced out' of enjoying the great American pastime. To us,neither alternative is acceptable. In our opinion it is not the role of the courts to effect a wholesale remodeling of a revered American institution through application of the tort law."

The courts HAVE ruled that a franchise may be held liable for injury caused by their mascot causing a distraction resulting in a patron being hit by a fly ball (Lowe v. California League of Prof. Baseball (1997)).

No one is liable for a bat that inadvertently gets loose if the park owners have provided some areas of protected seating and have adequately screened the areas most likely to be at risk of flying balls and bats. And as Mr. Dolan emphasizes, PUT DOWN YOUR CELLPHONE AND PAY ATTENTION TO THE GAME!!

(thanks to the thoughtful article written by Christopher B. Dolan, the best law firm he hopes you never have to use.)

Kevin Marquez