Georgia Court of Appeals declines to dismiss foul ball lawsuit against Braves

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It was reported back in 2012 that the Braves were sued by the family of a six-year-old girl whose skull was fractured by a foul ball during a game at Turner Field on August 30, 2010. The case is moving forward for now.

According to Bill Rankin of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, the Georgia Court of Appeals has declined to dismiss the lawsuit against the team. In addition, they will not adopt “The Baseball Rule,” which is potentially significant.

The rule, already in force in other states, says if a stadium operator provides screening behind home plate — the most dangerous place in the stands — and enough seats for spectators who want to sit there, it cannot be held liable for balls and bats that enter the stands and cause injuries.

The Braves, joined by the office of Major League Baseball’s Commissioner, Bud Selig, had asked the court to impose the rule, which would have essentially rendered the father’s lawsuit null and void.

The appeals court upheld a ruling by Fulton County State Court Judge Patsy Porter who declined to declare the “Baseball Rule” is Georgia law.

“At this stage of this litigation, we find no error in the trial court’s refusal to make such a declaration of law,” wrote Judge Elizabeth Branch for a unanimous three-judge appeals court panel.

The child was struck by a foul ball off the bat of then-Braves outfielder Melky Cabrera while sitting behind the third base dugout. As a result, she fractured her skull in 40 places and suffered a traumatic brain injury. The family believes that the netting should be extended at MLB stadiums due to the danger of batted balls.

Lawsuits such as this one are rarely successful. Still, there has been some momentum against “The Baseball Rule” of late, as the Idaho Supreme Court ruled last year that a man could seek damages after he was hit with a foul ball during a minor league game in 2008 and lost his eye.

When you buy a ticket, you are warned about the dangers of potential batted and thrown balls or broken or thrown bats, but whether children are truly capable of protecting themselves is an important question. Extending the screens along the baselines likely won’t happen, but MLB and teams should do more to warn people about how dangerous it is to sit in these specific areas, especially with how many distractions there are in ballparks these days.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.