Take Me Out to the Ball Game (But Watch Out For Foul Balls!)

Baseball games are one of America’s favorite pastimes. However, several recent accidents have placed baseball teams in the legal limelight. CBS Baltimore reports that the Baltimore Orioles are being sued after a 10-year-old girl was hit in the head during batting practice at Camden Yards. Likewise, an 8-year-old boy was recently hit in the head by a foul ball at an Atlanta Braves game.

 

Often, when a plaintiff who has been injured at a sporting event sues to recover damages for personal injury, the defendant will argue that the plaintiff “assumed the risk” of being injured. Although assumption of risk is a defense to a personal injury lawsuit, an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney can argue that the plaintiff was unaware of the specific risk and that the defense should not bar recovery.

 

What is Assumption of Risk?

Assumption of risk is a defense to a personal injury lawsuit. A defendant who is sued can argue that the plaintiff either knew or had reason to know of the specific danger that caused their injuries. Despite having knowledge of the danger, the plaintiff chose to engage in the activity.

 

For example, it is common knowledge that home run or foul baseballs can occasionally reach the stands at a baseball game. Most people, in going to a baseball game, would know that there is at least a chance they could be hit with a baseball that has reached the stands. In order to make people more aware of this danger, baseball stadiums often post warning signs or print warnings on ticket stubs stating that errant baseballs could hit spectators.

 

What is the “Baseball Rule” and How Does it Relate to Maryland Personal Injury Law?

Baseball teams and stadiums are protected in many states by what is called the “baseball rule.” The baseball rule holds that as long as a stadium protects the crowd sitting in the most dangerous areas (such as directly behind home plate) by netting, those who sit elsewhere in the crowd have assumed the risk of being hit by a baseball.

 

The baseball rule has received attention recently in relation to another lawsuit against the Atlanta Braves. The Braves argued that the baseball rule applied because there was protective netting in place behind home plate. However, the plaintiff argued that the protective netting did not cover enough of the stands.

 

Although Maryland appellate courts have not specifically adopted the baseball rule, courts in neighboring states such as Pennsylvania have. Generally, though, assumption of risk is a valid defense in Maryland courts. For example, in a case that involved a middle-school softball player who fractured an ankle playing softball, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that assumption of risk principles applied because the player had previous experience playing softball and knew the risks of physical injury. Kelly v. McCarrick (2004).

 

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