Who is Liable if I am Hit by a Foul Ball at a Major League Baseball Game?

Spending time at the ballpark watching a baseball game sounds like the perfect afternoon for many people. These environments are often high energy, with many things going on at once. This includes not only the game, but screaming fans, vendors, and flashing scoreboards. This can make it almost impossible to pay attention to the game at every moment, which can lead to attendees missing a foul ball coming in their direction. 

When a hard, five-ounce baseball comes off the bat at more than 100 miles per hour, it can cause serious injuries if it collides with a fan. This can include concussions and permanent vision loss.  An NBC News investigation uncovered at least 808 reports of fan injuries due to baseballs between 2012 and 2019. Many of these injuries come from being hit in the head by foul balls. When this happens, injured fans often want to seek justice for their suffering. However, doing so can be tricky, which is why it is important to retain the services of an experienced attorney.

The Baseball Rule

Often times, fans who are injured due to foul balls in a stadium hope to receive some financial assistance from the team after the incident. However, pursuing legal action can often prove to be difficult. This is because major league baseball teams are under the protection called the “Baseball Rule.” This is a doctrine from the early 1900s that provides liability protection to teams, making it hard for spectators to sue them over injuries. This is found in the form of a disclaimer on the back of every ticket, stating “the ticketholder assumes all risk, danger and injury incidental to the game of baseball.” 

Proving Negligence

It is because of these potential dangers that baseball stadiums have an obligation to reasonably minimize this risk to spectators. That is why they have protective netting behind home plate to stop foul balls from harming those seated close by. However, this only provides protection for a section of fans. It is because of this that the MLB recommended expanding this netting as well as shield seats 70 feet down both foul lines from home plate. In September 2017, teams across the country jumped on board to extend the netting by the 2020 season. This includes both the Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates.

With this protection and the Baseball Rule, it can be difficult to present a liability case. While this is true, it is not impossible. As the stadium is responsible for minimizing the potential for risk, they can be held liable for negligence if they fail to do so. In order to establish that a stadium was negligent, injured parties are required to prove that the proper standard of care was not upheld to ensure guests’ safety. Examples of negligent actions can include:

  • Not meeting federal netting requirements
  • Not making necessary repairs to holes or tears in safety nets
  • Failing to maintain the structure of the building or seats
  • Failing to offer sheltered seats in high-risk areas

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Friedman Schuman is an experienced and dedicated legal resource for clients throughout Pennsylvania. We proudly serve clients facing a wide range of legal matters. If you require the services of an effective attorney, please contact Friedman Schuman today to schedule a consultation.