Sluggerrr Wins Hot Dog Case

The Kansas City Royals and its mascot Sluggerrr won a jury verdict this week against a man who claimed that Sluggerrr was negligent in throwing a hot dog into the crowd. John Coomer, of Overland Park, Kansas, was hit in the face by the lion mascot.

Coomer suffered a detached retina that required three surgeries after being hit during a September 2009 night game. He was seeking $25,000 in damages.

The Royals argued that Coomer knew the risk of a wayward hot dog since he had attended 175 games and that he was at fault for not protecting himself given his seat six rows behind the third base dugout.

Byron Shores, who played Sluggerrr testified that he did not remember the particular hot dog toss in question.

Royals lawyers pointed out that Shores is an experienced mascot performer who also appears in the Truman the Tiger costume for the University of Missouri and was the recipient of the Big 8 Mascot of the Year. We was pressed on the “arc” and “velocity” of his hot dog tosses — which are sometimes done with an air cannon.

In my torts class, we discuss whether it would be more efficient to hold all such accidents inside a stadium to a strict liability standard. This would force teams to internalize the costs of such practices and to “avoid all accidents worth avoiding.” We have seen how injuries from flying balls and pucks during games are handled under negligence and often rejected as the basis for recovery. There are strong assumption of the risk arguments as well as contributory (comparative) negligence claims. However, there remains the question of whether stadiums are the “cheapest cost avoider” in such accidents and best able to avoid these accidents at the lowest cost. Before joining the federal bench, Guido Calabresi wrote extensively on the use of strict liability and the identification of the cheapest cost avoider.

In this case, I must confess that I first picked up this story off Reddit as an example of a questionable lawsuit. However, with a bit more thought, I am not so sure. While the Kansas jury was quick to rule for the Royals, it seems to me that shooting hot dogs into a crowd with an air cannon is a bit reckless, I have seen tee-shirts shot into a crowd, which seem pretty benign. (Though I will note that Maude Flanders’ death was caused by such flying tee-shirts). The question is whether this practice would continue if the Royals were forced to carry the costs of injuries. I am also not sure of how the jury would have handled someone who was at their first Royals games and was laid low by a flying frank.

This video gives you an idea of the velocity of the launches by Sluggerrr:

Source: Chicago News

Jonathan Turley

8 thoughts on “Sluggerrr Wins Hot Dog Case”

  1. Don’t those mascot’s have any home training? “Stop that! You’re going to put an eye out” is something I heard more than once as a child and actually said to an adult who was acting like a child on one occasion, Lol. I’d have found for the plaintiff.

  2. I mean, six rows behind the dugout. Not knowing much about baseball means I may have it wrong here, but it suggests that assuming a reasonable rake on the seats the mascot employed a straight baseball pitch and didn’t just loosely toss the wiener. It’s also dubious to assume that the victim was even aware of the pitch before he was hit, assuming he was there to watch the ball game and was surrounded by many distractions.

    Hell, he paid for the seat, so it shouldn’t matter if he just snoozed the afternoon away. He wasn’t there to provide an inept mascot with a couple of hours target practice.

  3. I’m with Tony Sidaway on this one. A detached retina is a very serious injury and there must have been some real force behind that wiener to cause such harm on impact. $25,000 was reasonable.

    Balls, bats, pucks, gloves, sticks … these are all necessary to the game but I wonder what the ruling would have been if a couple of players shot any of those pieces of equipment out of a canon into the crowd.

    The jury got it wrong … big time! Justice was not served.

  4. I have to agree with AY here. This is a hot dog. If the angle that the video shows is the normal angle of flight, it is not a dangerous object. Of course if it was a foot long hot dog, it might have a little more mass to it!

  5. Nal,

    Cases like these are nuisance cases….They have some value to go away….Some stores have what is called a minimum/maximum offer to go away….usually some folks take the cash and run…. There are some company’s that will not settle regardless of the claim because they do not want precedent settlement value…. They would much rather pay an attorney and take the chance of a loss than pay a claim and create a record.think in..Disney is a prime example….However, when they have exposure they companies like Disney..are very generous because they do not want the bad publicity……

    Cases like this where it is a great one for assumption of risk …are nuisance values…. think in terms of a person with a neighborhood swimming pool with out a fence to be seen…. there the owners have set them selves up for claims up the wazoo…. but if the homeowner with the pool did everything that they were supposed to and had a party and a party got injured…should they be liable…there is a doctrine called inattentive plaintiffs….in which he could recover….but here I do not think that it would be fair…because of what I have read in the article….answer is likely to change based upon different facts or it may stay the same….

  6. I don’t know the law, but deliberately throwing objects into a crowd of people who have very restricted movement strikes me as insane. I would hope the criminal law could deal with this kind of irresponsible behavior.

  7. I have been against shooting stuff into crowds since the nice Maude Flanders was killed in the T-shirt shooting incident!

  8. I’m guessing that the KC Royals spent more than $25,000 on legal fees. Not a very good example of “cheapest cost avoider.”

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