A fan named Stephanie Taubin is suing the Boston Red Sox for injuries sustained after she was hit in the head by a foul ball at a game in Fenway Park on June 17, 2014.
Taubman alleges in her complaint that she sustained facial fractures and neurological damage when the ball struck her in a section of the seats which was is normally protected by glass but which had been removed for park renovations. As a result, she alleges, she was “at greater risk of foul balls entering that [section] of Fenway Park.”
Ballpark operators have typically had a safe harbor that shields them from liability in such instances. It’s called “The Baseball Rule,” and it’s a legal doctrine which underpins those little “we’re not liable for you getting injured by flying balls and bats” disclaimers on the back of your ticket. The rule has been challenged more and more in recent years. It’s still the majority rule across U.S. jurisdictions, but in 2013, for example, an Idaho court refused to adopt it in the case of a man injured by a foul ball and allowed a jury to decide whether the ballpark owner acted reasonably based on the facts and circumstances of the case rather than to simply dismiss it per The Baseball Rule.
This one could be different too, given the removal of a protective device that is normally in place. A judge could very well decide that the Red Sox, by erecting the protection, acknowledged some level of risk there deeming it necessary and that by taking it away and still allowing people to sit there was legally unreasonable.
In other news, that lawsuit against baseball over protective netting is still floating around out there. And, as reported the other night, baseball is investigating steps to expand fan protections with more netting.
I would expect that, within a relatively short period of time, ballparks are going to look somewhat different than they do today.