Stadium Court Cases

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JANUARY 2006 LAW REVIEW SPECTATOR INJURY OUTSIDE THE STANDS James C. Kozlowski, J.D., Ph.D. © 2006 James C. Kozlowski Under the traditional rule of law, baseball stadium owners or operators owe spectators a "limited duty" of care, i.e., screen the area behind home plate and to offer a sufficient amount of seating for spectators who reasonably may be anticipated to request protected seats in the course of an ordinary game. Once the landowner provides such limited protection, no further duty is owed and a baseball spectator who chooses not to sit in a screened area generally assumes the risk of being hit by a foul ball. In Maisonave, however, the state supreme court considered whether an injured spectator necessarily assumed the…show more content…
In the opinion of the state supreme court, “[i]t would be unfair to hold owners and operators liable for injuries to spectators in the stands when the potential danger of fly balls is an inherent, expected, and even desired part of the baseball fan's experience.” [W]hile watching the game, either seated or standing in an unprotected area, spectators reasonably may be expected to pay attention and to look out for their own safety. It is the well- understood nature of the game that batted or thrown baseballs can land in the stands. Indeed, most spectators prefer to sit where they can have an unobstructed view of the game and are willing to expose themselves to the risks posed by flying balls to obtain that view. Moreover, professional baseball is a unique sport because fans actively engage in the game by trying to catch foul balls. Fans often greet out-of-play baseballs with cheers as they dive over walls and rows of seats, risking life and limb, for the thrill of triumphantly claiming the errant ball. Further, the state supreme court found that “owners and operators would face undue hardship…show more content…
The imposition of a duty under these circumstances . . . is not only fair but reasonable. As characterized by the state supreme court, such "times of heightened vulnerability include all situations in which a patron is no longer in the stands.” As a result, the court would not “expand the scope of the baseball rule past its logical and appropriate borders, that is, the stands.” To apply the baseball rule to the entire stadium would convert reasonable protection for owners to immunity by virtually eliminating their liability for foreseeable, preventable injuries to their patrons even when the fans are no longer engaged with the game… We simply apply traditional tort principles and conclude that the proper standard of care for all other areas of the stadium [outside of the stands] is the business invitee rule, which provides that a landowner owes a duty of reasonable care to guard against any dangerous conditions on his or her property that the owner either knows about or should have discovered. 5 JANUARY 2006 LAW REVIEW In reaching this determination, the state supreme court reiterated the traditional limited duty

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