Jun 10, 2014, 10:59 AM EDT
In most walks of life, whether someone is liable to you for injuries caused by alleged negligence is determined by a judgment call: was the harm foreseeable and did they act reasonably to prevent the harm from occurring? That’s a matter for a jury to decide, and the jury can take all of the specific facts of the case into account in making that determination.
Ballpark operators, however, have typically had a safe harbor that shields them from having a jury decide whether they acted prudently. It’s called “The Baseball Rule,” and it’s a legal doctrine which underpins those little “we’re not liable for you getting injured by flying balls and bats” disclaimers on the back of your ticket.
The way it’s usually formulated by the courts is that stadium owners and operators must provide “screened seats for as many spectators as may be reasonably expected to call for them on any ordinary occasion,” and that if they do that, they’re legally absolved of liability. Typically, providing screens behind home plate and around to each side to some degree puts owners in the safe harbor. In that case, it’s a matter of law, not fact, and the judge will usually dismiss the case before it ever gets to a jury.
That rule has been challenged more and more in recent years. It’s still the majority rule across U.S. jurisdictions, but last year, for example, an Idaho court refused to adopt it in the case of a man injured by a foul ball and allowed a jury to decide whether the ballpark owner acted reasonably based on the facts and circumstances of the case rather than to simply dismiss it per The Baseball Rule. Now, in Atlanta, a family is challenging it in the wake of their six-year-old daughter suffering traumatic brain injury from a foul ball at a Braves game in 2010.
I get asked about The Baseball Rule a lot and I’ll admit that I’ve never felt 100% confident about it either way. On the one hand, baseball’s arguments for it are reasonable: fans actually want to catch foul balls and don’t like sitting behind the screen unless they’re right down low. If you put teams in the legal crosshairs for foul ball injuries and/or mandate that they put screens way down the lines teams will have little choice but to either move fans far from the action or block their view, making the product they’re selling — good seats at a ballgame — far less attractive. No one really wins in that scenario.
On the other hand, the ballpark experience has changed quite a bit since The Baseball Rule was first recognized. There are more distractions from game action. It’s far more of a family product than it used to be and you thus get a lot of little kids who can’t be expected to defend themselves from foul balls in the stands. Parks are also far more full and seats behind the screens are far more expensive than they used to be, making that part of The Baseball Rule in which spectators “may reasonably call” for screened seats potentially unworkable. Teams are often forcing people to choose between being out in the bleachers or paying $250 for a screened seat.
I don’t want to turn ballparks into padded cells, but I also think that the risks, particularly to children, of sitting in unprotected seats down the lines are undersold by teams and under appreciated by fans. It’s dangerous down there. Maybe a good step in between letting ballpark operators off the hook completely and making them liable absolutely is to make them warn fans far more explicitly. To actually publicize to fans what can actually happen to you if you’re hit by a screaming foul ball. To make fans actually assume the risk in the form of an actual waiver instead of the assumed one written on the backs of tickets which are rarely if ever read. Perhaps to make people who take young children to games explicitly disclaim responsibility or else not sit in unprotected seats.
As it is now, the warnings are pretty passive and the risks not as well-known as they could be. And the disclaimer system is something of a joke. Making each of these things more rigorous might have some small costs involved — kid-priced seats so as to identify and differentiate those who would sit in dangerous seats with children? A second piece of paper or an usher with a clipboard taking actual liability waivers? — but those costs pale compared to the sorts of liability awards teams might face if The Baseball Rule continues to be eroded.
And they pale even more definitively compared to the price some people, particularly some children, have paid with their health and even their lives.
Sep 14, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT
The Athletics changed up their starting rotation order so that Sonny Gray lines up to pitch the final game of the season on the road against the Rangers.
Sep 14, 2014, 10:15 PM EDT
Jose Abreu tied a White Sox rookie record when he hit his 35th home run in the ninth inning of Sunday’s loss to the Twins.
Sep 14, 2014, 9:25 PM EDT
Rafael Soriano has made some mechanical adjustments but the Nationals aren’t ready to hand him back the closer’s role yet.
Sep 14, 2014, 8:35 PM EDT
Adrian Gonzalez thinks anyone who doesn’t think Clayton Kershaw is the NL MVP is an “idiot”. He’s not wrong.
Sep 14, 2014, 7:45 PM EDT
Joaquin Benoit should rejoin the Padres late this week. He threw a side session on Sunday afternoon and will do so again on Tuesday before he gets the go-ahead.
Sep 14, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT
Royals manager Ned Yost wanted a strikeout, so he brought in Aaron Crow, who has the bullpen’s lowest strikeout rate.
Sep 14, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT
Jonathan Papelbon blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning on Sunday and responded to fans’ booing with what appeared to be a rude gesture.
Sep 14, 2014, 5:11 PM EDT
From Diario De Cuba comes word that left-handed starting pitcher Yasmany Hernandez has defected from his native country with the goal of signing a contract this winter with a major league team. Hernandez led Cuba’s Serie Nacional with a 1.66 ERA in 19 starts during the 2013-2014 season …
Sep 14, 2014, 4:23 PM EDT
Marco Gonzales is starting in place of Michael Wacha on Sunday afternoon against the Rockies, with manager Mike Matheny acknowledging to the media late last week that Wacha hasn’t looked quite right since returning on September 4 from a stress reaction in his right shoulder. It’s not clear what the plan is for Wacha, but he hasn’t been shut down.
Sep 14, 2014, 3:35 PM EDT
Watch as Josh Harrison starts this around-the-horn triple play Sunday in Pittsburgh …
Sep 14, 2014, 2:43 PM EDT
We’re gonna have to hold you to this, Jose …
Sep 14, 2014, 1:39 PM EDT
Matt Adams is out of the Cardinals’ lineup for Sunday’s series finale against the Rockies due to lingering tightness in his left oblique, according to Stan McNeal of FOX Sports Midwest. It’s something that Adams has been dealing with for much of this month. He’s just 7-for-41 (.189) since August 31.
Sep 14, 2014, 12:44 PM EDT
Yasmani Tomas, 23, could be the next Cuban defector to hit it big — record-breakingly big — on Major League Baseball’s free agent market. Via Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe …
Sep 14, 2014, 11:51 AM EDT
Reds right-hander Mat Latos was scratched from his scheduled start Friday against the Brewers due to a bone bruise in his pitching elbow. It’s not believed to be a serious injury, but the regular season is over in two weeks and Cincinnati enters play Sunday with a record of 71-78. So there’s no reason to push it.
Sep 14, 2014, 11:08 AM EDT
Matt Szczur was ranked a Top 100 prospect by Baseball America in 2012, but he never quite met that hype and batted just .261/.315/.312 with one home run in 116 games this season at Triple-A Iowa. So knocking one out of PNC Park was both a relief and a surprise for the 25-year-old.
Sep 14, 2014, 10:22 AM EDT
Torii Hunter is 39 years old and his defense has rated very poorly this season in the outfield, but he made a game-saving catch in the Tigers’ 5-4 defeat of the Indians on Saturday night at Comerica Park …
Sep 14, 2014, 9:35 AM EDT
The Giants didn’t have a whole lot worth celebrating in Saturday night’s 17-0 blowout loss to the visiting Dodgers, but this was a pretty cool moment in the top of the seventh inning …
Sep 14, 2014, 8:58 AM EDT
The Tigers were trailing the Indians heading into the bottom of the eighth inning Saturday night at Detroit’s Comerica Park and a loss would have put them back behind the Royals — who defeated the Red Sox on Saturday — in the American League Central standings. That’s when Alex Avila came through with probably his biggest hit of what has been a tough 2014 …
Sep 14, 2014, 12:20 AM EDT
The Dodgers scored two touchdowns with the ensuing extra points, and kicked a field goal against the Giants on Saturday night. It was a bloodbath.
Sep 13, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT
Zack Wheeler threw a fastball to Bryce Harper in the second inning that he’d like to take back, if possible.
- Cuban slugger Yasmani Tomas to command $100 million? 18
- Bruce and Brett Bochy make MLB history 29
- Settling the Score: Saturday’s results 17
- Zack Greinke homers, Dodgers demolish the Giants 17-0 at AT&T Park 19
- Frank Torre: 1931-2014 6
- Settling the Score: Friday’s results 46
- Bud Selig can’t remember the last domestic violence incident in Major League Baseball 86
- Chris Davis suspended 25 games for amphetamine use 92
- Chris Davis suspended 25 games for amphetamine use (92)
- A few thoughts about the discrimination lawsuit against the Mets (91)
- Giancarlo Stanton diagnosed with multiple facial fractures and dental damage (91)
- Bud Selig can’t remember the last domestic violence incident in Major League Baseball (86)
- A couple of initial thoughts on the Chris Davis suspension (83)