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Sorry Yankees fans: you can’t sue anyone if a terrorist attack hits Yankee Stadium

Aug 21, 2012, 8:54 AM EDT

Image (1) yankee%20stadium.jpg for post 4012

 

Apparently this happened last month, but I missed it. There’s a new article up about it now, though, and it reminds us of the world in which we live these days:

In July, Yankee Stadium became the first sports facility to earn the coveted federal “Safety Act” designation. That means the facility has passed a battery of tests and won approval from the Department of Homeland Security, so the Yankees have been granted a wide-ranging immunity from future lawsuits that might stem from terrorist attacks.

I’m not terribly familiar with this designation, but I came across it (or something like it) back in the legal days in the form of products liability protection for companies that make certain anti-terrorism technologies or take certain anti-terrorism measures.

The idea is that we don’t want to punish people for being unsuccessful in combating terrorism and creating a situation in which someone is better off not even trying to do something safe (when they can claim the terrorism was totally unforeseen) than it is to try to combat it and come up short. In the stadium context, it allows the Yankees to do, well, whatever the Yankees may try to do security-wise, without later having someone say that they did it in a substandard manner and filing suit.

I get it and understand the incentives in play. And God knows that people will come out of the woodwork to sue if something were to happen. But like any other sort of lawsuit immunity, it’s a double-edged sword. Yes, it may grant the Yankees greater latitude to do the right thing, but it will also incentivize them (and enable them) to make it way harder for people to sue them for legitimate things. “Oh, our beer vendor hit you over the head with his tray? Sorry, but that’s terrorism!”

Maybe that sounds crazy to you, but anyone who has ever been involved in the lawsuit biz knows that crazier things happen all the time and that there’s very little downside to asserting silly defenses like that. Because hey, they may work, and even if they don’t, they delay things.

(thanks to reader Johanna S. for the heads up)

  1. largebill - Aug 21, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    Cue the lawyer jokes in 1,…2,….3,….

    However, it is disgusting that we’ve reach the point where the fear of victims suing is equal to or greater than the fear of the actual terrorist. Fear of scumbag lawyers is why we “need” warning on an iron telling us idiots not to use it on clothing we are wearing. Too many people are egged on by lawyers to treat any personal tragedy as a potential lottery ticket.

    • amhendrick - Aug 21, 2012 at 9:29 AM

      No, we need warning labels on irons because some idiot (*cough* John Smoltz *cough*) actually tried to iron something they were wearing. Remember, lawyers don’t sue people. People sue people.

      • kirbyslefteye - Aug 21, 2012 at 9:53 AM

        Wait–Lew Ford wasn’t the only one who did that?

    • temporarilyexiled - Aug 21, 2012 at 9:54 AM

      Your first line was a big mistake.

      Now I have an excuse (okay, a lame excuse).

      A sampling – from a couple of war horses to (hopefully) a few you haven’t heard:

      What’s the difference between a lawyer and a catfish?

      One’s a scum sucking bottom dweller, and the other’s a fish.

      What do you call 100 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?

      A good start.

      Why do they bury lawyers 26 feet under?

      Because deep down, they’re really good people.

      Why was a series of stamps featuring famous lawyers cancelled?

      People kept spitting on the wrong side.

      What’s the difference between a lawyer and a hooker?

      A hooker stops screwing you when you’re dead.

      • nbjays - Aug 21, 2012 at 10:12 AM

        Hey, don’t lump all the lawyers together. Remember, 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name. :-)

    • skids003 - Aug 21, 2012 at 12:12 PM

      To even be able to sue the facility for the acts of terrorists is ludicrous. Sue the terrorists, that’s who did it. Then fry them.

    • originalkingjames - Aug 21, 2012 at 12:47 PM

      Did they start forcing people to go to Yankee games? It is a voluntary recreational activity, why should the Yankee’s be responsible for a terrorist act and why should they even be responsible if the beer vendor did hit you over the head? In either case the act wasn’t commited by the Yankees.
      Yes, people do sue people but lawyers direct you to the deepest pockets you are aloud to sue. To many abulance chasers trying to make a quick buck at your expense. I need to go to McDonalds and get a cup of coffee.

  2. kirbyslefteye - Aug 21, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    Some technical problems with your “legal” analysis here, Craig–

    An “act of terrorism” under the SAFETY act requires the use of instruments designed to cause mass destruction. It clearly states that in the act. So a beer vendor knocking someone in the head is, by definition and freaking common sense, not an “act of terrorism” from which the Yankees are absolved of liability.

    Furthermore, the Yankees already have immunity from liability for common game day hazards such as being knocked by a vendor’s tray. All teams have that. It’s on the back of your ticket.

    Lastly–who is upset they can’t sue because a beer vendor knocked them in the head?

    Just another classic example of a lawyer taking his argument to an absurd extreme. The SAFETY act was made to encourage vendors to take more safety precautions against terrorism, and even the article you linked to says it is doing at least a fair job at this goal.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Aug 21, 2012 at 9:30 AM

      I used a somewhat absurd, extreme example to make a point that you cannot deny at all: people who are granted immunity for a discreet situation will inevitably try to argue that the grant is wider than it is. It happens all the time.

      • kirbyslefteye - Aug 21, 2012 at 9:37 AM

        Fair enough. But the argument would make more sense if you used an absurd example of something that might arguably fall under the SAFETY act liability exemption.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 21, 2012 at 10:03 AM

      Furthermore, the Yankees already have immunity from liability for common game day hazards such as being knocked by a vendor’s tray. All teams have that. It’s on the back of your ticket.

      Maybe the lawyers can step in here, but how exactly does this work? For one, didn’t someone argue the same thing during the hockey incident where the kid died due to the deflected puck, and the team still lost? Seems to me that merely stating something shouldn’t absolve you of all responsibility, if the chance for negligence was still there*.

      *For instance, I assume a team would still be held liable if they removed the backstop/netting and spectators were hit with foul balls?

      • ThisIsBaseball - Aug 21, 2012 at 10:12 AM

        The difference is this is immunity created by Congress as opposed to immunity created by common law (judge-made). Congressional immunity is much stronger and much, much harder to defeat.

      • kirbyslefteye - Aug 21, 2012 at 10:16 AM

        It’s a notion of assumption of risk or contributory negligence–that if you are voluntarily coming to watch a baseball game, you accept responsibility for protecting yourself from normal dangers of going to a baseball game. It’s sort of like voluntarily shoving your hand in a fire than trying to sue whoever started the fire.

        The team may still be held liable for unreasonable risks or abnormal dangers though. So yeah, there is precedent that says a professional team would be liable if they didn’t put up a net, since it’s deemed unreasonable for the team not to do so.

      • ThatGuy - Aug 21, 2012 at 1:32 PM

        I believe some of the details of that was because the team didn’t take some steps they should have. This was in 2002(or 2003) and prior to this incident netting was not mandatory above the glass, but was fairly common practice in most arenas(especially NHL arenas). However, Columbus did not have the additional netting on the ends(obviously the direction most shots are taken from) that most teams did.

        I believe I recall that the hospital that treated her was also part of the settlement as they missed something on a scan and the girl died a couple days after being hit.

    • term3186 - Aug 21, 2012 at 12:03 PM

      I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with part of your analysis here. Use of a WMD is not required under the statute. There must be the use/attempted use of “instrumentalities, weapons, or other methods designed or intended to cause mass destruction, injury, or other loss to citizens or institutions of the Unites States.” One can easily argue that the “mass” designation does not apply to “injury” or “other loss” portions. Therefore the only requirement is an instrument that causes injury or loss, which can be pretty much anything.

      • evmichel - Aug 21, 2012 at 4:55 PM

        In what universe is a beer tray an “instrumentality,” “weapon,” or “method designed or intended to cause” injury?

      • kirbyslefteye - Aug 21, 2012 at 11:13 PM

        If it could be pretty much anything, then why did they use enumerated examples at all? And why bother even putting “mass destruction” if the last part was supposed to mean “any bit of destruction what so ever”? It would be redundant and unnecessary under such a wide reading.

    • kevinbnyc - Aug 21, 2012 at 12:09 PM

      An absurd extreme….like using “kirbyslefteye” as a handle on a baseball message board?

  3. redguy12588 - Aug 21, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    Shakespeare had the right idea.

    • snowbirdgothic - Aug 21, 2012 at 10:08 AM

      You may want to double-check the context of that particular Shakespeare quote.

      • redguy12588 - Aug 21, 2012 at 10:29 AM

        I know the context and origin. Law firms have interpreted this quote for their own ends.

  4. hockeyflow33 - Aug 21, 2012 at 11:09 AM

    I’d imagine it’s to lower their insurance costs

  5. jonirocit - Aug 21, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    Why even bring up these things ? You seriously should not be discussing this.

    • Alex K - Aug 21, 2012 at 11:50 AM

      Why should there be no discussion of this?

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