Three years ago, a fan was attending a Red Sox game at Fenway Park in downtown Boston when she was hit by a part of a bat. The bat was broken when swinging at a pitch, and this is something that happens on a somewhat regular basis during the game of baseball.
This piece of the broken bat went flying into the crowd and made contact with a fan’s head, resulting in traumatic brain injury (TBI). While it is true there are signs posted warning fans to pay attention for objects leaving the field of play, and there are even announcements on the scoreboard before the game, these announcements often do little good when it comes to protecting defenseless spectators.
A typical case where these warnings are helpful is the case of sky high popups. In these cases, a ball is popped up and makes a slow ark and then falls straight down into the stands. Many people are going to be paying close attention when this happens and those in the vicinity of the ball will often dive over each other to be the one who catches it. Not only does a fan get the ball as a souvenir, or a child nearby gets it when the fan is pressured to hand it over, they often receive a round of applause from the crowd in attendance.
A slow-moving popup is often called a “can of corn” in baseball language because it is reminiscent of when people use to go to a grocery store, where a can of corn would be on a high shelf behind the cash register. The store owner would use a stick to knock down a can of corn and catch it before placing it on the counter. But when a bat goes flying into the stands at over a hundred miles per hour as if often the case, there is not much a person with ordinary reflexes can do to prevent a serious or even fatal injury. Even if the person was able to put their hands up to protect their face, and that is unlikely, it would still result in broken bones, lacerations, and other types of serious personal injury. We have seen similar injuries involving hockey pucks and sticks. And auto racing has had a number of serious and fatal incidents of debris landing in the crowd.
For this reason, many major league ball parks, and some minor league ballparks, have decided to extend the safety netting around a larger area of lower seating levels, often called the lower bowl. These nets were the source of complaints by some fans who say it limits their field of view in their expensive seats, but this is a minor inconvenience when compared to the harm caused by being hit by a stray bat fragment or line drive foul ball. Not only is there nothing most fans can do to prevent being hit, but we have seen many pitchers seriously injured over the years by flyiing bats and balls hit hard up the middle. If a professional baseball player making millions of dollars can’t get out of the way in time, how can we expect more of a fan in a seat.
This is why putting safety nets up at ballparks across the New England area is not only a good idea, but it should be the acceptable standard of care in terms of a negligence claim in a personal injury lawsuit in Boston.
According to a recent news article from the Hartford Courant, a woman who was injured while attending a minor league game in New England has filed a personal injury lawsuit. Court papers indicate she was attending the minor league game two years ago when a batter’s baseball bat shattered as he swung at a pitch. The bat shards went flying into the grandstands where she was seating and tore into her elbow.
While there is much less sophisticated measurement equipment at a minor league game than there is at a major league game, bat speed monitors estimated the bat piece at Fenway Park three years ago was traveling at around 100 miles per hour. So that should give us a good idea of the force of such projectiles. When the bat hit this woman’s elbow, not only was there a serious laceration, the joint was also fractured, resulting in serious pain and expensive medical bills. Those who suffer a serious personal injury will often also have expensive and lengthy rehab. Lost wages are available for time missed at work after the initial action as well as some of the time during rehabilitation.
It should be noted you many not get compensated for all of the time missed at work during physical therapy if you were able to schedule many of those appointments during non-working hours and chose not to do so. This is different in every case so the best thing to do is speak with an experienced Boston personal injury lawyer about what damages (financial compensation) may be appropriate in your actual injury situation.
This particular field was owned by the city so it is the named defendant in the personal injury lawsuit. In some cases, suing a municipal entity will be more difficult since they are protected by doctrine of sovereign immunity. This prevents the government from being sued in some cases and limits the recovery in others. However, this only applies when the government is involved in a sovereign function. A sovereign function is one that is needed. On the other hand, if the city is engaged in a proprietary function designed to make money, it may not be protected by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. While the city might disagree, it could be argued running a baseball stadium is a proprietary function.
It should also be noted the city intends to defend this lawsuit and claims it is not liable. In a civil case, there is a presumption defendant is not liable unless they are proven liable by a preponderance of the evidence. This is a lower burden of proof than what is required in a criminal case where the standard is that of beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you are injured in an accident in Boston, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.
Spectator Sues Bristol Blues Over Injury From Broken Bat, July 14, 2018, By Don Stacom, Hartford Courant More Blog Entries:
Wilkins v. City of Haverhill – Massachusetts Supreme Court Weighs Slip-and-Fall Claim, May 23, 2014, Boston Personal Injury Attorney Blog