Question: Can a fan who is hit and injured by a foul baseball while attending a baseball game sue the team for their injuries?
On May 23, 2009, Juanita DeJesus was injured when she was hit on the head by a foul ball at a Gary South Shore Railcats. DeJesus subsequently filed suit alleging that 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. DeJesus was also aware of numerous warnings regarding the risk of objects leaving the playing field and entering the stands. DeJesus was aware of the warning printed on her ticket. DeJesus was also aware of the warning signs posted in each aisle of the seating area which read “Please Be Aware Of Objects Leaving The Playing Field.” DeJesus also arrived at the stadium early enough on the day in question to hear the warning read by the stadium announcer about objects leaving the field. Shortly after the beginning of the game, the second batter hit a pop-up foul ball. DeJesus saw the batter make contact with the ball and saw the ball pop up in the air. DeJesus noticed that the people sitting around her were looking up in the air, so she looked up in the air as well. DeJesus heard someone say, “Look out,” and while DeJesus was looking for the ball, it hit her in the face. As a result of being hit by the foul ball, DeJesus suffered serious injuries, including several fractured bones in her face and blindness in her left eye. After DeJesus filed her complaint, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment in which they asserted that, as a matter of law, they could not be held liable for the injuries. The trial court denied the motion and the Defendants appeal.
On Appeal, the Defendants argue that the relevant facts are undisputed and preclude a finding that they should have expected that DeJesus would fail to discover or realize the danger of being struck by a foul ball and fail to protect herself against it. They also argue that the potential for foul balls to enter the stands does not involve an unreasonable risk of harm to invitees. The appellate court noted that it is well known … that it is not possible, at baseball games, for the ball to be kept at all times within the confines of the playing field, and anyone familiar with the game of baseball knows that balls are frequently fouled into the stands and bleachers. Such are common incidents of the game which necessarily involve dangers to spectators. However, danger notwithstanding, it is widely accepted that whether baseball fans are viewed as participants in the game itself or merely passive spectators, one thing is certain: the chance to apprehend a misdirected baseball is as much a part of the game as the seventh inning stretch or peanuts and Cracker Jack. In the instant matter, the undisputed evidence demonstrates that DeJesus was a baseball fan who was aware of the risk of a foul ball.
In filing suit against the Appellants, DeJesus also claimed that the Appellants should be held liable because they failed to install protective screening continuously from first to third base. However, other courts have held that operators of a baseball stadium have only a limited duty to provide protective screening in the area behind home plate where the danger of sharp foul tips is greatest. While baseball is not free from danger to those witnessing the game, the operator of a stadium is not an insurer of its patron’s safety and the perils are not so imminent that due care on the part of the management requires all the spectators to be screened in. Thus, Defendants are entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law since they satisfied their limited duty and therefore, cannot be held liable for her injuries.
South Shore Baseball, LLC v. DeJesus, 982 N.E.2d 1076 (Ind. App. 2013).