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Georgia Court of Appeals declines to dismiss foul ball lawsuit against Braves

Jul 14, 2014, 7:12 PM EDT

Turner Field

It was reported back in 2012 that the Braves were sued by the family of a six-year-old girl whose skull was fractured by a foul ball during a game at Turner Field on August 30, 2010. The case is moving forward for now.

According to Bill Rankin of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, the Georgia Court of Appeals has declined to dismiss the lawsuit against the team. In addition, they will not adopt “The Baseball Rule,” which is potentially significant.

The rule, already in force in other states, says if a stadium operator provides screening behind home plate — the most dangerous place in the stands — and enough seats for spectators who want to sit there, it cannot be held liable for balls and bats that enter the stands and cause injuries.

The Braves, joined by the office of Major League Baseball’s Commissioner, Bud Selig, had asked the court to impose the rule, which would have essentially rendered the father’s lawsuit null and void.

The appeals court upheld a ruling by Fulton County State Court Judge Patsy Porter who declined to declare the “Baseball Rule” is Georgia law.

“At this stage of this litigation, we find no error in the trial court’s refusal to make such a declaration of law,” wrote Judge Elizabeth Branch for a unanimous three-judge appeals court panel.

The child was struck by a foul ball off the bat of then-Braves outfielder Melky Cabrera while sitting behind the third base dugout. As a result, she fractured her skull in 40 places and suffered a traumatic brain injury. The family believes that the netting should be extended at MLB stadiums due to the danger of batted balls.

Lawsuits such as this one are rarely successful. Still, there has been some momentum against “The Baseball Rule” of late, as the Idaho Supreme Court ruled last year that a man could seek damages after he was hit with a foul ball during a minor league game in 2008 and lost his eye.

When you buy a ticket, you are warned about the dangers of potential batted and thrown balls or broken or thrown bats, but whether children are truly capable of protecting themselves is an important question. Extending the screens along the baselines likely won’t happen, but MLB and teams should do more to warn people about how dangerous it is to sit in these specific areas, especially with how many distractions there are in ballparks these days.

  1. chargrz - Jul 14, 2014 at 7:22 PM

    If the Braves had just stepped up and paid for the poor kids injuries this could have been settled. I hope they get stung big time.Cheap Billionaires.

    • DJ MC - Jul 14, 2014 at 9:00 PM

      The issue, of course, is that once you start paying you can’t stop. You need to pay for each situation, or else you are most definitely going to court. Then the fact that you already paid becomes part of the case against you.

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 14, 2014 at 10:40 PM

        It probably won’t be worth too much legally, but, teams will probably amend the language with tickets, and even post signs at entrances, saying that purchase of a ticket is an agreement to waive liability.

      • DJ MC - Jul 14, 2014 at 10:43 PM

        You mean things they already have in place?

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 14, 2014 at 10:52 PM

        As I noted, spelled out even more expressly, and on places elsewhere than just tickets. I’m unaware of signs at stadium entrances in 200-point font stating that purchase of tickets is an express waiver of team liability.

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 14, 2014 at 10:58 PM

        @DJ Also, I as a fan could argue that if the only place an express liability waiver is to be found is on a ticket, since I can’t see that waiver until after I buy the ticket, it’s null and void.

      • sportsfan18 - Jul 15, 2014 at 10:10 AM

        McDonald’s

        The coffee is HOT HOT HOT ya’ll…

      • staticovedub - Jul 15, 2014 at 5:12 PM

        @ Socratic

        That’s not really true.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrink_wrap_contract

  2. Kevin S. - Jul 14, 2014 at 7:30 PM

    I’m not unsympathetic to the young girl and her family here, and while I’m undecided on whether the Braves were negligent I do think this deserves a trial, but I can’t understand why anybody would get dugout seats past the netting with young children. There are better, cheaper and safer places to take in the game than those seats.

    • bkbell3 - Jul 14, 2014 at 7:38 PM

      I’m sorry for the little girl with the stupid parents also. But it seems that there is no personal accountability any more . Any moron knows that foul balls have been going into the stands dozens of times a game for over 100 years. So being bad at math, how many millions of times has this occurred? We are the most litigious country in the would and it seems no one thinks they’re responsible for their own actions.

      • Old Gator - Jul 14, 2014 at 7:45 PM

        What do you know about incontinence anyway?

      • bkbell3 - Jul 14, 2014 at 7:52 PM

        Old gator, i’m not sure what your point is. I pee ok

      • paperlions - Jul 14, 2014 at 8:24 PM

        This made me curious about how many MLB games have been played in history: 195,566

        If you figure that 10-20 potentially dangerous balls (line drives, hard hit fly balls, home runs, and popups) make the stands each game, that gives you a range of essentially 2-4 million events in MLB history. Add in MiLB games and you probably get well over 10 million hard hit balls entering stands.

        I am willing to bet many times more injuries have occurred due to people falling in stadiums and in traffic accidents on their way to or from the stadium than as a result of a batted ball. Going to a stadium is probably still far safer than flying in a plane, driving anywhere, or even swimming in a backyard pool.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jul 14, 2014 at 8:24 PM

        We are the most litigious country in the would and it seems no one thinks they’re responsible for their own actions.

        There are plenty of lawsuits that are legitimate based on the negligence of others. That doesn’t mean the plaintiff is abdicating their personal responsibility. For instance, the woman who spilled McDonald’s coffee was a legitimate complaint. Should she have not sued when McDonald’s was repeatedly warned that they didn’t need to brew their coffee to 200+ degrees?

      • bkbell3 - Jul 14, 2014 at 11:59 PM

        COPO, never said there weren’t legit lawsuits, i said people in this country sue more than any other country, legit or otherwise. I don’t know what the coffee thing has to do with this case but i did see the pictures and those were some horrific Burns for spilled coffee.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 14, 2014 at 9:36 PM

        Said it before, and I will say it again. These parents have suffered enough without being called “stupid” and “morons”, regardaless of what you think of the merits of their suit.

        have some compassion

      • bkbell3 - Jul 14, 2014 at 11:56 PM

        Delaware I have compassion for the girl and the family that’s why i’m not saying it to them. I’m on a blog making a comment in the comment section. Having compassion doesn’t change the concept of looking out for your kids when they’re to young to do it for themselves. Then compound it by trying to cash in on it. I believe if the family has no insurance or is struggling to pay for care then if i owned the team i would step forward and help them. I don’t know the full situation money and care wise

      • realgone2 - Jul 14, 2014 at 10:13 PM

        Redneck lottery

    • stlouis1baseball - Jul 15, 2014 at 9:16 AM

      “but I can’t understand why anybody would get dugout seats past the netting with young children.”

      Kevin:
      My Wife and I take our little Girls (10 and 7)…to one Cardinals game a year. I splurge for the closest seats I can purchase because I want my kids to have the best view possible while providing the greatest experience possible. Typically down the 1st base line our directly behind the dugout.
      It is MY responsibility to assure they are not harmed by foul balls. Where they (heaven forbid) to ever be struck by a ball that is on ME. Not the Cardinals, the player or anyone else.
      From where I sit…it’s as simple as that.

      • jlinatl - Jul 15, 2014 at 10:39 AM

        If it was simple as that, I doubt there would be so many comments.

        While I agree that parents should be aware of there surroundings, there are dozens if not hundreds of distractions throughout the course of a game. Vendors, drunken fans, someone getting up in the bullpen, the scoreboard, blaring music, etc.

        The idea that you or any fan is so vigilant as to never be distracted is naïve or self-serving at best.

      • stlouis1baseball - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:51 PM

        There are so many comments as a result of our “up in arms” mentality. All drama, all the time. Personal accountability. Say it with me…”personal accountability.” Be it personal accountability while roller skating/ice skating, while lighting fireworks, while watching a baseball game. Personal accountability. Who chose those seats while purchasing the tickets? The Braves? The opposing team? Again…personal accountability. But for further perspective…see Paper’s post above.

  3. coachbeck - Jul 14, 2014 at 8:27 PM

    If they aren’t gonna give the club some help then this will only open up lawsuits everytime a ball goes into the stands. They would be better off leaving Georgia

  4. hojo20 - Jul 14, 2014 at 8:43 PM

    Watch the game next time. Boom, problem solved.

  5. raynman49 - Jul 14, 2014 at 9:10 PM

    Was her grandmother the one who spilled coffee on herself? That started this whole country suing for your own stupidity. No sympathy.

    • glennsyank13 - Jul 14, 2014 at 9:21 PM

      Never read any facts about that coffee case did you? But yes, the rest of the country are the dumb ones….

    • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 14, 2014 at 9:42 PM

      30 balls enter the stands on average per game. There are 2,430 games per year, or nearly 75,000 balls hit into the sands per year. Factor in the number of popel in attaendnace, and you have the odds of around 1 in 7 million that an accident like that will happen, even factoring for where they sat. Akin to the odds of getting an accident because you went 5 miles per hour too fast.

      You call it stupidity if you like. I say have little compassion.

      • largebill - Jul 15, 2014 at 10:03 AM

        It is not a matter of being compassionate or not to point out our disgust at how every personal tragedy is treated as a potential lottery ticket.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 15, 2014 at 11:24 AM

        Not to prolong this – but you can certainly disagree with the merits of the case without adding pure conjecture

    • Reflex - Jul 14, 2014 at 10:02 PM

      The hot coffee lawsuit was well justified. Read up on the case, it sounds bad on its face but the details really demonstrated just how at fault McDonald’s was in that one.

      • platediscipline - Jul 14, 2014 at 10:41 PM

        Well justified my @#$. I used to get McDonald’s coffee on my way to work. Now I get to the office with lukewarm coffee. I haven’t got coffee from them in years. Some idiot puts hot coffee between her thighs and millions suffer. What an idiot.

      • Reflex - Jul 14, 2014 at 11:09 PM

        In other words you have never actually read the details of the lawsuit.

        Here is an image of the burn, warning it is quite graphic: http://www.fortworthinjuryattorneyblog.com/McDonalds1.jpg

        Here are the facts of the case: http://www.lectlaw.com/files/cur78.htm

        Granted none of this conforms to the idea of the woman being overly litigious. So I suppose you can choose to continue to be ignorant so you can rant about your supposedly lukewarm coffee.

      • deadeyedesign23 - Jul 14, 2014 at 11:51 PM

        Hah yeah millions “suffer” lukewarm coffee.

      • Reflex - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:14 AM

        I’ll also point out that the claims of ‘not drinking there for the past few years’ and ‘suffering with lukewarm coffee’ are pretty silly given that this lawsuit occurred 22 years ago. Its likely that the coffee has been the same as long as the poster has ever drank it, if its lukewarm suddenly its not due to this lawsuit.

      • deadeyedesign23 - Jul 15, 2014 at 8:55 AM

        Hah yeah dudes holding a grudge about the temperature of his coffee that goes back to the Clinton administration.

    • apeville - Jul 14, 2014 at 10:52 PM

      You should research that case- you’ll probably change your tune once you actually realize you are spouting spoon fed propaganda.

      • largebill - Jul 15, 2014 at 10:09 AM

        News flash for ya, propaganda is not limited to one side of these issues. Actually most of the “facts” supporting the McDonalds case is ABA “spoon fed propaganda.” The ambulance chasers association is terrified of tort reform. They know that case is frequently cited as an example of an outrageous lawsuit. They’ve convinced a few fools the case had merits because McDonalds coffee is “too hot.” Guess what? Coffee is supposed to be hot. Don’t spill it on yourself.

        Full Disclosure: I’ve never cared for McDonalds coffee as it has a burnt taste to it.

      • Reflex - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:22 PM

        Ever bothered to actually read the case or see the photos? The pictures don’t lie. There is no propaganda about the fact that a woman was severely burned by coffee that was considerably hotter than anyone else would ever serve it.

    • staticovedub - Jul 15, 2014 at 5:15 PM

      FACT:

      The woman actually received less money than the total amount of her medical bills. If only people put half an ounce of energy into research before forming their opinions. Sigh.

  6. rcali - Jul 14, 2014 at 9:36 PM

    Yeah, maybe not the best decision for young children to be sitting in prime foul ball/line drive parts of the ballpark.

    • thisdamnbox - Jul 15, 2014 at 4:42 AM

      Maybe MLB should get proactive and ban children of a certain age from sitting in prime missile territory before they are told to extend the nets past the dugouts, thereby ruining the experience for countless others…just a thought.

  7. apeville - Jul 14, 2014 at 10:54 PM

    Yeah, that’s the lesson here. If you have small children- or want to read your smart phone all game- get behind the net and enjoy.

  8. lukedunphysscienceproject - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:14 AM

    I’m not stating whether or not I think the lawsuit should succeed, I am limiting my comment to one particular argument.

    The argument that the team releases itself from liability by what they print on the ticket is something I do not believe would or should hold up in court. You can’t impose conditions on a contract unilaterally after the contract is executed. When a buyer purchases a ticket, they are entering a defacto contract with the team or the seller. Unless the fact that the team accepts no liability for injuries in the stands is expressed to the buyer before purchase, it’s void.

    It would be like a home seller telling the buyer that the garage is not included after the sale of the house is closed.

    It’s possible this could be covered by a statement somewhere on the team’s website or wherever and then it could be argued that the buyer should have done their due diligence before purchasing the ticket and should have known the liability waiver was in effect.

    Of course, it would be nice if there were a common sense clause that the court could use to get rid of lawsuits like this and not bother with all this nonsense, unfortunately our legal system rarely works that way.

    • staticovedub - Jul 15, 2014 at 5:17 PM

      I’m not sure if you’re stating fact or opinion.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrink_wrap_contract

      • lukedunphysscienceproject - Jul 15, 2014 at 6:33 PM

        I feel like I am pretty solid ground with the ticket thing being an imposition of terms after agreement. I am not a lawyer, but I have negotiated numerous contracts and sued and been sued as a result of many years in the construction industry. You simply can’t add terms and conditions to a sale AFTER it is completed.

        The last part is my opinion.

      • staticovedub - Jul 17, 2014 at 1:15 AM

        Did you agree to the terms and conditions of the Windows OS before you bought your computer, or was it when you went home and turned it on?

        No one added conditions to anything.

  9. mlbfan8898 - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:51 AM

    Here’s an idea. Be a good parent and don’t have your kids so close to the damn field.

    • stlouis1baseball - Jul 15, 2014 at 9:35 AM

      Bulls h i t. Part of being a good parent is being aware of your surroundings.
      I take my kids to one game a year. That one game is always down the baseline or behind the dugout. As I posted previously, it is MY job…and MY job only to assure they aren’t harmed by a foul ball. Here is an idea…we live in the real world. Personal accountability.

  10. dcarroll73 - Jul 15, 2014 at 9:08 AM

    We’d had the expected comments on how we love to sue and how parents are responsible. How about at least one constructive suggestion for improving the situation? One idea might be to have some plexi panels in front of the seats up to the bases. I’m sure some will object that this would separate fans from the game, but I’ll bet hockey fans said that when this first happened at rinks (anyone know how far back that was?) Those panels would at least block the most dangerous line drive fouls (e.g. the one that hurt that poor little kid.) It would certainly reduce the number of outs on pop-ups along those areas, but in the current offensively-challenged era maybe that is a good thing.

  11. blabidibla - Jul 15, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    Yes, it’s terrible parenting to put your kid in a situation where a 1 in a million chance might hurt them.

    No more little league, no more swimming, no more badmitten, no more knitting, no more … ah, screw it. Let’s all sit on the couch and watch TV the rest of our lives. We’ll hand out trophies for viewer participation, and slowly melt into the cushions.

    Life happens people. Can’t live in fear of unlikely outcomes.

    • lukedunphysscienceproject - Jul 15, 2014 at 11:29 AM

      Actually, someone ran the numbers above. It’s more like 1 in 10 million. You’re right. Just about everything an active child does in the course of a normal day is more dangerous than sitting in the stands at a baseball game.

  12. maddog11896 - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:37 PM

    At a Brewer game back in 07 I took a nice Bill Hall foul ball to the jaw up the first base line. Nothing bad you know, just a broken jaw, 4 missing teeth, large laceration across my left cheek. My talking has been impaired for the past 7 years but you know what? I would never ever sue the ballpark or the team or MLB for that matter. I knew the risk when I bought the ticket, I knew the risk when I entered the park, I knew the risk when I sat down. I put my glove up to protect myself but I only slightly defected the ball. If not for my glove, It would have probably hit me square in the face and it could have been much worse. If MLB ever decided to make it a rule and have nets going all along the infield, that would be the last I’d go to MLB baseball games.

    • rje49 - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:43 PM

      Japan has nets around the infield area stands and people obviously still go to their games. Just have to get used to it, and in our lawsuit-happy nation, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened here yet.

      • maddog11896 - Jul 15, 2014 at 5:29 PM

        It hasn’t happened because when they scan your ticket, you’re consenting to a contract. And on that contract (the back of the ticket) is a waiver that the player, nor the park, nor the team, nor MLB is responsible or to be held liable if you’re hit with a ball or bat or anything from the field.

    • stlouis1baseball - Jul 15, 2014 at 4:05 PM

      I am sorry to hear of your unfortunate situation Dog. But at the same time, I commend you on your sensibilities. Perhaps it’s a Midwest thing.

  13. American of African Descent - Jul 15, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    The Braves should turn around and file third–party practice against the parents for (a) letting her sit in an area where she could get hit by a foul ball, and/or (b) not protecting her from the foul ball.

    If we’re going to aportion liability, let’s make sure that everyone responsible gets a share.

    • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 15, 2014 at 6:15 PM

      ‘If we’re going to aportion liability, let’s make sure that everyone responsible gets a share.”

      Fact: the parents are paying greater price then anyone on earth, with the notable exception of the child.

      Disagree with the lawsuit all you want, the parents are paying a huge price.

      • American of African Descent - Jul 15, 2014 at 9:13 PM

        Fact: Parents are looking for money from big bad corporation.

        Fact: Parents are at least partially responsible for what happened to their daughter.

        Just because the parents are grieving at what happened to their daughter does not mean that the Braves need to write a large check.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 16, 2014 at 10:21 AM

        Personally, I think the lawsuit has strong arguments you can make on both sides. Others may disagree one way or the other. I just find it amazing that a girl’s head is crushed, and everyone feels a need to pile on the parents….because they filed a lawsuit.

        If the lawsuit has no merit it will fail

      • American of African Descent - Jul 16, 2014 at 12:11 PM

        How is this “piling on?” It’s just a natural progression of the litigation. And if the third–party claim has no merit, then it will fail.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 16, 2014 at 12:35 PM

        A) I said “people” have been piling on, not you specifically. If you need examples, read the thread
        B) I do think you are getting a tad carried away saying the Braves should counter-sue.

      • American of African Descent - Jul 16, 2014 at 1:36 PM

        It’s not a counter–suit as the parents are not a party. It is a separate and distinct action that says, inter alia “if I’m liable and have to pay, then you are also liable and have to pay because you also have some responsibility.”

        Sincerely, I don’t understand your objection.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 16, 2014 at 2:26 PM

        Mmmm-hmmm….responsibility. Yes, those parents are experience none of that

      • American of African Descent - Jul 16, 2014 at 2:59 PM

        “Responsibility”=legal responsibility for the injuries. You know, duty, breach, causation . . . the building blocks of tort law.

        Or does the fact that there is a corporation with deep pockets mean that it has to act as the sole financier?

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 16, 2014 at 4:35 PM

        They have legal responsibility for their child. Was there something else you had in mind?

      • American of African Descent - Jul 16, 2014 at 5:28 PM

        Yes. Legal responsibility for the injuries to which they contributed. See my last several posts.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 16, 2014 at 7:48 PM

        But any judgement would take that into account – case in point, the USFL winning there suit against the NFL, and winning 1 dollar. So seeing as any judgement (or loss) would assign culpability, why do you believe the braves should file a suit?

      • American of African Descent - Jul 16, 2014 at 10:09 PM

        That’s actually not how litigation works. Also, you need to consider that the parents and the girl are different people, so a contributory negligence defense won’t necessarily fly w/r/t the parents’ liability.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 17, 2014 at 6:28 AM

        I think you are running in circles now trying to convince yourself. Judgments are decided ALL THE TIME based on the strength of the argument, or lack there of – it is rarely a simple of matter of up or down on the initial claim.

        But if you makes you feel better – I now believe the parents should be in jail for child abuse

        You have a nice day

  14. American of African Descent - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:35 PM

    Well jailing them is a little extreme, but you should take a course in civil procedure if you’re really interested in the topic.

    You have a nice day, too!

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