After a Girl is Struck by a Foul Ball, the Question is Raised: What is the Baseball Rule?

Photo of a personal injury claim formDuring a New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins game in September, a line drive by Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier hit a young girl in the face. Since then, Frazier has been in contact with the family. According to their correspondence, the young girl is doing much better after her injury. Frazier intends to visit the girl and her family.

Despite the apparent friendliness between the two families, this incident brings up an interesting question. Does the family have any recourse from the stadium, or is the potential of being struck by a foul ball an assumed risk?

According to an analysis from Bloomberg News, over 1,700 spectators are injured every baseball season by baseballs coming off bats, or broken pieces of the bats themselves. Sometimes, these injuries are serious, involving fractures, neurological damage and sometimes, life-threatening injuries.

The Baseball Rule

The Baseball Rule is a longstanding rule that imposes limited duty on the part of baseball teams to protect fans from foul balls, hence the protective screening you might see in the seats behind and near home plate. Outside of those danger zones, however, guests are typically viewed as assuming the risk of being hit. Whereas behind the danger zones, where guests would not have time to dodge a foul ball (some of which launch off the bat at 100 mph or more), those guests further out are expected to take precautions when a foul ball looks like it is coming their way.

Additionally, if you’ve ever looked at the back of a baseball game ticket, you’ve probably read that the purchase of a ticket is akin to a waiver. They often express that you are assuming the risk of injury when you enter the stadium.

However, some people think that the Baseball Rule is outdated. This is due to, among other reasons, changes in technology and expectations at modern games. For example, many fans are distracted by cell phones in the stands, taking selfies or tweeting scores to their friends. And given the relative lack of action in a standard baseball game (The Wall Street Journal estimates only 18 minutes of a standard 3-hour game consist of action), distractions are even more likely. This makes reacting to a foul ball more difficult.

Furthermore, some believe that this assumption of risk cannot necessarily apply to all guests. Children, for example, probably do not understand the risk of a foul ball injury. They might not even have a choice whether or not they attend the game.

Courts have ruled both ways on the issue. Do you think the Baseball Rule should be updated? Or should you always assume that you could suffer personal injury at a baseball game?

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