Can I Sue if I Was Hit by a Foul Ball at an MLB Game?

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Attending a Major League Baseball (MLB) game could be the time of your life…until a foul ball strikes you hard enough to cause a serious injury. Foul and fly balls at baseball games have caused bone fractures, eye injuries, broken teeth, lacerations, skull fractures and traumatic brain injuries. Victims often try to file claims for foul ball injuries, only for the stadium owner to refute liability based on a defense called assumption of risk. Knowing when you may or may not be able to file a personal injury lawsuit after an injury at an MLB game could help you obtain fair compensation.

What Is Assumption of Risk?

Assumption of risk is a common defense stadium owners and establishments such as the MLB use to argue against liability for fan injuries at games. Assumption of risk is a rule that states a defendant may not be liable for injuries if the victim was voluntarily partaking in an activity he or she knew to be dangerous. This legal doctrine can protect places such as sports stadiums from legal responsibility for fan injuries in most situations. In some circumstances, however, the assumption of risk defense may not apply.

  • If the defendant was grossly negligent or reckless
  • If the defendant intentionally injured the victim
  • If the defendant’s actions were well outside the range of what a reasonable person would expect from the activity

Attending an MLB game comes with an inherent assumption of risk that a foul ball could fly into the stadium. Most fans would have this reasonable expectation based on prior knowledge of the sport and the nature of the event. The MLB can in most cases, therefore, use this defense to reduce or deny liability for guest injuries. Unfortunately, only a few exceptions to the rule exist. Combatting this defense may take proving the MLB or another defendant was negligent or reckless in causing the injuries.

Proving Negligence for an MLB Injury

You have four years from the date of the MLB game where your injuries occurred to file a civil claim in Florida. The MLB or another defendant must have caused or contributed to your injuries for you to have a claim. A successful claim against the MLB for a foul ball injury will take proving four main elements. These are the same elements necessary for most negligence-based personal injury claims in Florida. The first element is duty of care. The MLB and other sports organizations owe duties to fans and spectators to reasonably prevent injuries. This includes putting up adequate netting to protect fans in vulnerable positions behind the home plate.

The second is a breach of duty of care. If the netting has holes that allow foul balls to pass through, for example, the MLB has breached its duty to keep fans reasonably safe. Allowing the net to fall into disrepair creates an exception to the assumption of risk since no reasonable fan would expect the net to have holes. Other acts of negligence or recklessness by the MLB that increase the risk of foul ball injuries could also constitute breaches of duty. The MLB’s negligence or recklessness will create an exception to the assumption of risk doctrine.

The third element of proof in a sports injury case is causation. There must be a connection between the MLB’s mistake and the victim’s injuries. Your lawyer must be able to establish proof that the breach of duty of care caused the foul ball to strike you during a game. The fourth and final element of proof is an injury. The foul ball incident must have caused you damages such as a serious personal injury, medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Your lawyer may be able to help you prove your case by gathering available evidence against the MLB on your behalf.