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

close up of baseball pitcher's hand with two baseballs
October 9, 2019
Legally Reviewed By Attorney Rand Spear, Esq.

Attending a professional baseball game can be an exciting event for many people. The setting provides intense energy, with many different things going on at a time. This can include flashing scoreboards, screaming fans, vendors, and more. These happenings can make it almost impossible to pay attention to every moment of the game. Unfortunately, this can lead to distracted fans being unaware of a foul ball heading in their direction.

While baseballs are small, they can come off a player’s bat at more than 100 miles per hour. In the event that it collides with a fan, this can cause serious injuries including concussions or permanent vision loss. As per an investigation done by NBC News, it was discovered that at least 808 fans reported injuries due to baseballs between 2012 and 2019. When injuries occur in major league ballparks, fans often want to hold someone liable for their suffering. Doing so can be complicated, which is why it is important to contact an experienced attorney for assistance.

The Baseball Rule

When fans are injured at the expense of foul balls at a baseball game, they usually hope to receive compensation from the team. However, it can be complicated to pursue legal action against a major league team. This is because they are under the protection of what is known as the “Baseball Rule.” This doctrine from the early 1900s provides liability protection to teams. On the back of every ticket issued to spectators, it states that “the ticketholder assumes all risk, danger and injury incidental to the game of baseball.” This can make it difficult for attendees to sue a team over their injuries.

Proving Negligence

As baseball stadiums pose these potential dangers, they have an obligation to reasonably minimize this risk to those attending the games. It is because of this that they provide protective netting behind home plate to shield those seated behind it from foul balls. However, this protection is only available for a section of fans. This is why the MLB recommended expanding the netting to shield seats 70 feet down both foul lines from home plate. After another incident in 2017, teams across the country agreed to extend the netting by the beginning of the 2020 season. This includes both the Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates.

It can be difficult to present a liability case with these protective measures and the Baseball Rule in place. However, it is not impossible. Stadiums can be held liable for negligence if they fail to minimize the potential risk for fans. In order to prove negligence, the injured party must show that this standard of care was not upheld. 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

Contact Our Personal Injury Firm

If you or a loved one has been in a personal injury accident in Pennsylvania, it’s important that you contact an experienced Philadelphia personal injury attorney to help you with your case and to make sure that you are not taken advantage of. Contact Spear Greenfield to get the right attorney in your corner.

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