07.15.15

Lawsuit Calls for Major League Baseball to Provide Safety Netting

Posted in Negligence at 3:34 pm by kevin

A season ticket holder for Oakland Athletics, Gail Payne, has filed a lawsuit in the federal court of Northern District of California against Major League Baseball (MLB) to seek class action status on behalf of all fans who would buy season tickets in unprotected areas in MLB parks.

The lawsuit calls for the protection of baseball fans from flying balls and bats by ordering the sports association to extend safety netting the entire length of the foul lines. The plaintiff stated that they are not asking for money, but instead want MLB Commissioner, Rob Manfred, to extend the screens, which just cover only a few sections behind the plate, to run from one foul pole to another.

A lawyer with the Seattle-based firm of Hagens Berman, Steve Berman, said, “I think it’s important when you have an issue like this not to monetize it, not to say it’s about people trying to get a bunch of money.” Berman is also the one who sued the US and international soccer authorities, asking them to change how they handle concussions.

Payne, who has been attending games of A’s since 1968, purchased tickets this year for the Oakland Coliseum section 211. Her lawsuit claims that 3 or 4 foul balls enter the section each game. The section is along the 1st-base line beyond the safety netting. The suit states, “She fears for her and her husband’s safety and particularly for her daughter. She is constantly ducking and weaving to avoid getting hit by foul balls or shattered bats.”

Now, the MLB Commissioner’s Office stated that they are discussing safety with the clubs, where the players’ association is becoming involved in the talks. “Fan safety is our foremost goal for all those who choose to support our game by visiting our ballparks, and we always strive for that experience to be safe and fan-friendly,” they said. “Major League Baseball is in the process of re-evaluating all issues pertaining to fan safety, comfort and expectations.”

 

The Merit of the Lawsuit As It Relates to Personal Injury

Payne’s lawsuit claims that there are 1,750 injuries every year that are caused by broken bats and foul balls, and these injuries could have been prevented. Aside from this, it complains that ballpark initiatives designed to attract younger fans, including video boards, mascots and Wi-Fi, are creating distractions that put children in even greater jeopardy. Moreover, it faults the sport for allowing players to switch to maple from ash bats; the former is said to be more prone to shatter.

The lawsuit also says that the sport has failed to provide its clubs with consistent guidelines for the safety of fans and failed to heed warnings from players. It adds that baseball failed to keep pace with other sports, such as NASCAR and NHL, which placed safety policies to protect fans from getting hurt with equipment and debris associated with the game.

Serious injuries and deaths at baseball parks catalogued by the lawsuit include the recent one where a Brewers fan was hit in the face by a foul ball and the old case where a 32-year-old man was killed in 1943 by a bad throw by Washington Senators 3rd baseman, Sherry Robertson. It also cites news reports where players asked for more protective netting during collective bargaining agreement negotiations from 2007 to 2012.