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Woman hit by foul ball strikes out at Court of Appeals

February 15, 2013

A baseball organization in Lake County is not liable for the injuries a fan suffered when she was hit in the face by a foul ball during a game, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

Juanita DeJesus suffered fractured bones in her face and blindness in her left eye after being hit by a pop-up foul ball during the opening day Gary South Shore Railcats baseball game. She was a fan of the Railcats and had attended numerous games before she was injured in May 2009. She also admitted she had read signs and the back of her ticket warning her of the risk of balls leaving the playing field and entering the stands.

She sued the baseball team and Northwest Sports Venture LLC, which is the former name of South Shore Baseball LLC, alleging they were liable for her injuries under a theory of premises liability and for negligently failing to place protective screening continuously from first to third base.

The trial court denied the defendants’ request for summary judgment. On interlocutory appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed in South Shore Baseball, LLC d/b/a Gary South Shore Railcats, and Northwest Sports Venture, LLC v. Juanita DeJesus, 45A03-1205-CT-222.

“… we conclude that, as a matter of law, Appellants cannot be held liable to DeJesus under a theory of premises liability because the risk of getting hit by a foul ball at a baseball game does not amount to an unreasonable risk of harm. Again, it is common knowledge that foul balls may leave the field of play and enter the stands and ‘one who attends a baseball game as a spectator can properly be charged with anticipating as inherent to baseball the risk of being struck by a foul ball while sitting in the stands during the course of a game,’” Judge Cale Bradford wrote, citing Pakett v. The Phillies, L.P., 871 A.2d 304, 308 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2005) and other cases dealing with this issue.

The judges also adopted the limited duty rule that other jurisdictions have set forth, which provides as a matter of law, an operator of a baseball stadium who provides screening behind home place sufficient to meet ordinary demand for protected seating has fulfilled its duty with respect to screening and cannot be subjected to liability for injuries resulting to a spectator by an object leaving the playing field.

Bradford noted that the Lake County baseball stadium had protective screening in front of the seats behind home plate, and DeJesus didn’t designate evidence that there weren’t enough seats behind the screening or that she was unable to buy seats behind that screen if she had chosen to do so the day she was injured.

 

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