Sports venues are commonly involved in premises liability lawsuits, as Juanita DeJesus found out the hard way. DeJesus was an avid baseball fan, and she attended many of her local team’s games, the Gary South Shore Railcats. While attending a game, she was struck in the face by a pop-up fly ball and sustained injuries. She sued the Gary South Shore Railcats and Northwest Sports Venture, alleging they failed to provide netting to protect spectators from stray balls. The Railcats argued that Ms. DeJesus was aware of the possibility of foul balls entering the stands and that she was able to protect herself should any foul balls enter the stands. Additionally, the Railcats argued that the law did not require them to provide more netting than they already had behind home plate. The Court of Appeals of Indiana agreed.
The court held that the Railcats were not responsible for Ms. DeJesus’ injuries. The court found that the risk of a spectator getting hit by a fly ball at a baseball game was not an unreasonable risk and that Ms. DeJesus assumed the risks inherent to attending a baseball game. She acknowledged reading the warnings on the back of her admission ticket as well as signs posted in the aisles to beware of objects from the field entering the stands. She heard the same warnings broadcasted over the loudspeakers before the game. She attended many baseball games at this stadium, so she knew that foul balls entering the stands were a likely part of the experience.
The court also found that there is no duty for the Railcats to put up protective netting from first to third base. The court adhered to the rule adopted by a majority of states that baseball stadiums need only provide protective netting behind home plate where the danger of being hit by a foul ball is the greatest. In fact, no other court imposed the duty for which DeJesus was advocating. Since the Railcats complied with the duty to provide netting behind home plate, the court found they were not responsible for Ms. DeJesus.
If you would like to read more about the decision, you can find the Indiana Court of Appeals opinion here.
Don’t let this take away from your enjoyment of America’s greatest pastime. There are plenty of good times ahead at ballparks all across the country. Just remember to beware of foul balls!