Cubs Fan Sues Team After Being Hit In The Eye By A Line Drive

100px-Chicago_Cubs_Logo_svgMy students and I followed the score in the Nationals/Cubs games yesterday in class. I was overjoyed with the final win for the Cubs at the end of the class.  However, the Cubs are facing a challenging lawsuit in court that raises, again, the question of liability for fans injured during games.  John “Jay” Loos, 60, was hit in the eye during the August 29th game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  He lost sight in the eye and is now suing over the alleged negligence in not extending the protective netting.

In my torts class, I teach sports injuries as part of a discussion of strict liability versus negligence standards.  An argument can be made that stadiums are “the cheapest cost avoiders” for the purposes of strict liability for fan injuries from balls and bats. Teams have greater information and the ability to minimize risks associated with the game.

However, even under negligence, there is a case for liability for failing to take precautions with added nettings and other steps.  One such case involved the injury caused to the eye of a fan at a Kansas City Royals game from a launched foil covered hot dog.

In this case, it was a line drive that hit Loos, who was sitting near the field.

Recently,  a 2-year-old girl was hit in the face by a 105 mph line drive that caused her extensive facial injuries.  These cases have magnified calls to extend protective netting.  Over 70 percent of foul balls reach the stands in a MLB game.  Just looking at Fenway Park, a spectator is hurt by a stray ball or bat once every three or four games.  While many fans want to catch these balls, the high-risk areas are concentrated from the home plate to the end of the dugouts.   Some teams have already extended the nets in that critical area.

I have long maintained that there is a clear negligence case to be made against teams for insufficient netting under common law torts.  That does not mean total netting but protection for the most dangerous line drives closer to the home plate.

What do you think?

17 thoughts on “Cubs Fan Sues Team After Being Hit In The Eye By A Line Drive

  1. Just a couple of questions about the Cubs/Nats series.

    1. Was that Steve Bartman who leaned over the railing in game 2 to catch Rizzo’s HR?
    2. Is Wrigley Field a segregated venue? Seriously, the only black people I saw there were on the field. I thought I was watching a Packer’s game in Green Bay. Correction. Jesse Jackson was in the stands.

  2. I have attended countless baseball games in 27 different MLB stadiums over the past 60 years. Fans who go to the game to socialize, not to watch the game, are exponentially more likely to get injured. I’ve had rockets hit toward me in seats 4 rows from the field and had time to react. This is becoming even more of a problem w/ so many people obsessed w/ looking at their phones, or their “little TV’s” as Dana Carvey call them.

    My old man taught me, and I taught my kids, to always be heads up. If you want to just socialize, don’t sit in the good seats. Go to the upper deck, nose bleed seats and talk or bury your head in your phone all you want.

    • If I’m helping the attorneys defending the Cubs I want to get this plaintiffs phone records. See if he was distracted.

  3. Someone should do a study to see if there is a correlation between pace of play and these types of injuries. Attention spans being what they are, smartphones, slow play, vendors all distracting attention away from the field of play.

    I brought my 1.5 year old to the 1984 NL playoffs-Padres/Cubs in San Diego. My father-in-law gave us his field level tickets behind the Padres dugout. I was not going to miss that series but I also paid attention to the action. What an awesome experience.

    • Olly, Cub fans would disagree w/ the “awesome experience.” But, it indeed put the Padres in the Series and was awesome from your perspective.

      • Nick,
        Now when I want to watch the Padres play minor league baseball, I go to Lake Elsinore and watch the Padre’s A team, the Storm. They typically won’t be out of the playoffs by the end of May. 🙂

  4. This sort of situation occurs on a regular basis in society. Is the venue responsible for ensuring safety? What constitutes warning signs (the kid grabbed by an alligator)? Hockey arenas went through this and went from chain link to tempered safety glass. Some fans got hit along the way. It comes down to the clear view, you are right there, experience versus charges of negligence. If a person is injured or a child killed by a line drive and the value of certain seats is compromised, where does the buck stop? It’s one of those board room decisions.

  5. Doesn’t it say on the ticket that by purchasing and/or using the ticket one assumes all risks attendant upon attending the game? Should that not be sufficient to close the issue?

    • Apparently the man was a guest of the team and did not have a ticket. But when I went to law school I learned of the concept of VAR – voluntary assumption of the risk. It was obviously a known risk. I never practiced tort law, so maybe things have changed in the past 50 years (Ha!).

  6. This has always been the assumption of risk by the fan. The game is over a hundred years old, foul balls have been going back into the stands. You have to pay attention to the game. And what idiot buys tickets behind home plate and brings his 2-year-old? Whoever it was should be banned from attending sports for life.

    • Paul – I was thinking the same thing. Why would anyone bring a two year to a MLB game? The parent has a greater responsibility for protecting his child than the team owners.

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