S. Shore Baseball, LLC v. DeJesus – Sports Stadium Injury Claims Tough to Establish

While tens of millions of Americans attend professional sporting events every year, a fair number of them will be injured.
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These injuries range from third-party criminal attacks by other fans to being struck by hockey pucks and even getting hit with hot dogs.

Our Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers know that precedent set in most courts holds that a lot of times, these injuries are the manifestation of an assumed risk fans take when attending such events. In many cases, this warning regarding “inherent risk” is even printed on the back of the ticket.

Still, recognizing the high potential for injury, some sports teams have smartly introduced enhanced protection measures, including higher, wider netting, increased security and bigger fencing.

The defendant in the Indiana Supreme Court case of S. Shore Baseball, LLC v. DeJesus was not one of those.

Here, a fan and several of her friends attended the opening day game for a minor league baseball team. On the back of the ticket was a warning that patrons may risk injury from thrown or batted balls, and that the ticket holder “assumes all risk” for this. The fan was seated behind home plate.

At the beginning of the game, the second batter hit a foul ball. The fan saw the ball make contact, looked to see where it had gone and then was struck in the face, suffering severe injuries. Those injuries included facial fractures and permanent blindness in one eye.

The patron sued the team and the stadium, alleging she was just outside the protective screening area, and that the defendant was negligent in failing to make the premises safe for a business invitee by not extending the protective netting far enough beyond the foul ball line. She produced an affidavit from an expert in sports and recreation facility design, who asserted baseball fields should have continuous netting from first base to third in order to protect fans.

The defendants moved for summary judgment on the grounds the plaintiff was a licensee – not a business invitee – and therefore it only owed her a duty to warn of known latent dangers.

While this case was pending, the state supreme court issued a ruling in Pfenning v. Lineman. In that case, a woman was driving a beverage cart at a golf outing when she was hit by a rogue golf ball. She sued the course on the grounds of premises liability. The court ruled in favor of the defendant, finding the course operators had reason to believe patrons would expect the possibility of an errant ball and further, the risk of harm was not unreasonable.

Still in the S. Shore case, the trial court denied the defense motion for summary judgment. The state supreme court reversed, finding the plaintiff was a licensee, and as such, the defendant had fulfilled its duty to warn of possible dangers.

Other cases have been decided in favor of injured plaintiffs, (take the recent example of Coomer v. Kan. City Royals Baseball Corp., decided recently by the Missouri Supreme Court). However, the strength of the case should be carefully weighed with a personal injury attorney prior to filing.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:
S. Shore Baseball, LLC v. DeJesus, June 27, 2014, Indiana Supreme Court
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Florida Appellate Court Rejects “Coblentz” Agreement in Rodriguez v. SNI, May 14, 2014, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog