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.