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Liability of Owners of Baseball Stadiums

Injuries at baseball stadiums occur to both spectators and participants. They may be able to recover for their injuries in certain circumstances based on the negligence of the owner of the stadium. However, the owner may successfully defend against a lawsuit in certain circumstances.

Premises owner’s duty

An owner of a baseball stadium or field does not guarantee that spectators or participants will be safe there. Instead, the owner owes a duty to exercise ordinary care to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition and to warn of non-obvious dangers. The owner is not required to provide screens throughout the ballpark; only the most dangerous areas, including behind home plate, must be screened.

Breach of duty to spectators

An owner may be negligent in maintaining hazardous seats, stands, or steps, in failing to repair the screens that protect the spectators from batted or thrown balls, in failing to supervise spectators or to take action once spectators begin a fight (e.g., in order to retrieve a ball), or in allowing players to practice too close to the spectators.

Breach of duty to participants

Negligence may be found if an owner fails to properly maintain the playing field by allowing obstructions or hidden holes (e.g., holes other than those caused by participants digging their spikes into the ground) to exist on it.

Defense

Generally, spectators at a baseball game assume the ordinary risks inherent in attending the game, such as being hit by a foul, thrown, or batted ball while sitting in unscreened seats.

However, in the following circumstances, a spectator may be found not to have assumed the risk:

 

 

  • the spectator is injured while seated behind a screen with large holes that allowed a ball to pass through and strike him;
  • the spectator is injured while walking to his screened seat; or
  • the spectator is injured by other patrons scrambling after a ball that was hit into the stands.

Participants assume all the natural and ordinary risks inherent in playing baseball, such as the risk of being struck by batted or thrown balls, being injured while sliding into a base, or being struck by another participant who is sliding into a base. However, participants do not assume the risk of dangerous conditions on the playing field.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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