On liability

In law school they tought us that fans more or less assume the risk of balls and bats and stuff flying into the stands at ballgames. Not so in Iowa, at least when you’re a kid:

The lawsuit stems from a June 2003 Quad City River Bandits game in Davenport that Tara Sweeney, 8, attended as part of a field trip organized by the Bettendorf parks and recreation department. Sweeney sat in the third or fourth row of bleachers about 30 feet past third base, beyond the area where a net protects spectators, according to court records.

When Sweeney turned her head to talk to a friend, a player lost control of his bat, which traveled about 120 feet and struck the girl in the head. Her mother had signed a liability waiver that absolved the city of responsibility for accidents or injuries on the field trip. But the Sweeneys argued that supervisors of the outing were nonetheless negligent.

A Scott County judge threw out the lawsuit.

But the Supreme Court ruled that the city had “a duty to … protect the children’s safety at the ballpark,” adding that a jury could find parks employees put the child in an “unreasonably hazardous location” to watch the game.

I’ve never known how to feel about the law in this area. I used to just laugh off the concept of stadium/team liability, but then a few years ago a young girl was killed by a puck at a Columbus Blue Jackets hockey game. Intellectually I can appreciate that that was a freak occurrence, but as a father I don’t think that would make me feel better if it were my daughter who was killed or, in the case of the flying bat here, injured.

I think I still lean in the direction of “you buys your ticket, you takes your chances,” but I don’t presume to know the right answer here.


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Andrew
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Andrew

Well, sure, but if you’ve just gotten field level, first base side tickets and you take your family to the game, and the ushers tell you that this isn’t a safe enough place for you to sit, you have to go back to the upper deck…you’re freaking out and ready to sue.

Or did I miss the point?

Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra

Yeah, the way that duty was described in the article is kind of funny. Makes it sound like ballparks have an obligation to trump a given fans’ choice of seats if they have kids with them.  Makes no sense, legally or practically speaking.

In reality I think it would lead to either (a) nets being placed all the way to the foul poles; or (b) fans in certain sections being forced to sign an additional waiver over and above the one they agree to when they buy a ticket.

Millsy
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Millsy

Who’s the defendant in this?  Is it the city or the team?  It sounds like this is something toward Parks and Recreation and the supervision, rather than the stadium.  When kids are involved in school, camp, etc. the supervisors seem to get the shaft.  Seems similar…but a little different from the team/stadium liability suits (if that makes sense).

MooseinOhio
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MooseinOhio
Not knowing all the details makes it difficult to make a salient comment about the case but as someone who worked for years in adventure education (e.g. high ropes courses, climbing walls, zip lines) that required waivers to be signed I believe that if the organization did it’s due diligence in protecting the individuals safety then they should be protected.  However if an organization is not adhering to proper safety standards (e.g. properly checking climbing harnesses, regularly inspecting and repairing the ropes course) then the organization can be viewed as negligent in it’s duties to create a safe environment.  By… Read more »
Andy
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Andy
I basically agree with Moose.  There are some situations where even if everyone is careful, a child can still be hurt. The waiver protects against those situations.  But a waiver doesn’t protect against negligence.  Say kids had a seat behind the net.  There’s a hole in the net, and a kid gets hit by a foul ball that goes through the net.  Or say the supervisor of the kids gets drunk and doesn’t notice that some of the kids wander off and get hurt.  A waiver won’t (and shouldn’t) protect against suit in such a case.  This case was dismissed… Read more »
Andy L
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Andy L

My God, that is a LONG way to throw a bat.

themarksmith
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themarksmith
Difficult situation. If you go to a game and are going to sit near the action, I presume you are interested in the game and should be paying attention. Then again, kids aren’t exactly the easiest to get to sit down and pay attention. But if you go to a game, you know the risks. If you are really afraid your kid might get hurt, buy tickets somewhere else in the stadium. It would even save you some money. I’ve been to a lot of minor-league baseball games. The closest I got to being hit by a ball was when… Read more »
Michael in Denver
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Michael in Denver
My knee-jerk reaction was that the suit must be baseless, but reading the story, I began to think differently. According to the story: 1) The city, not the team, is being sued 2) For choosing to seat a gaggle of kids on a field trip near to the action but unshielded by nets. Put it that way, and it does sound like an accident waiting to happen. When booking a field trip, they could have either put the kids up a few more rows or behind the nets. This would not apply to adults or to normal family outings with… Read more »
Michael
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Michael
As someone who lives in Davenport and goes to River Bandit games, and even worked there for one summer, I can tell you it’s a bit more complicated than that.  One, it’s not a big stadium, so there is no second deck, and there aren’t that many rows to go up.  That said, when I have gone to games and taken my now 11 year old sister, I make sure that we’re behind the net just so she doesn’t get hit.  I would lean to the side saying that there shouldn’t be a lawsuit because of the waiver, and because… Read more »
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