When you attend a Chicago Cubs or White Sox’s game, you should understand that if you are struck by a ball or part of a broken bat, you cannot sue the team or major league baseball for any aspect of the injury. This would include a severe injury that could cripple you for life, or result in your death.
Lucky for fans, death has been infrequent at major league baseball games. Only one person has died from being struck and that was a 14-year-old boy in 1970. On the other hand, injuries at MLB games are not infrequent. A study by Bloomberg news found that 1,750 fans were injured at MLB games in 2014.
A class-action lawsuit has been filed by fan who wants teams to install nets from home plate to outfield foul pole, to protect spectators from broken bats and foul balls. The lawsuit notes that such netting has been installed in dugout to protect players and coaches, but spectators directly behind the dugout remain unprotected.
Baseball is protected by the “hold harmless” clause on the back of tickets, which becomes a contractual waiver of any damages for injuries suffered by spectators watching a game in the stands.
Other sports have adopted protective nets. Hockey put them in place after a 13-year-old girl died from being struck by a hockey puck in the head. Baseball stadiums in Japan also are equipped with nets.
In 2008, the New York Times reported that the baseball commissioner was going to bring up the topic with team owners. Nothing has happened in the intervening eight years.
Perhaps baseball owners are waiting for a spectator to die before the conversation becomes real?
Source: nytimes.com, “Lawsuit Seeks Better Protection for Fans From Foul Balls and Broken Bats,” Richard Sandomir, July 13, 2015