The Baseball Rule in Sports Spectator Injuries

On June 6, 2015, during the second inning of a game between the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics at Fenway Park, a spectator was injured when a player’s bat flew into the stands and struck her, USA today reports. She was seated behind home plate, just to the third-base side of the field. After the final out of the second inning, the game was delayed so medical staff could tend to her. She was wheeled off on a stretcher and taken to the hospital. Fortunately, Fox Sports has reported that, though her injuries were originally thought to be life threatening, she has been discharged from the hospital and transferred to a rehabilitation center.

Although these injuries occurred at Fenway Park, the Boston Red Sox will most likely not be held liable for the fan’s injuries because of a legal principle known as the Baseball Rule. Under this rule, the stadium owner must provide reasonable protection in the form of screens or nets behind home plate, but a fan who sits in an unscreened part of the field assumes the risk of being hit by balls entering the stands during the ordinary course of the game. If the Baseball Rule did not apply, the stadium owner would have to show whether he or she exercised reasonable care under the circumstances of each particular injury. In Illinois, there is a law known as the Baseball Facility Liability Act. This law limits the liability of the stadium owner to two situations. First, the owner can be liable if a fan who is sitting behind a screened area gets hit with a foul ball because the screen was defective as a result of the negligence of the owner of the stadium. However, a net is not defective if it is not long enough or wide enough. Secondly, the stadium owner will be held liable if the spectator’s injury was caused by the willful and wanton conduct of the stadium owner or any employees of the owner. Willful and wanton conduct means an utter disregard for the well-being of the spectators. So the next time you are attending a baseball game in Illinois, please pay very close attention to the game.

For a summary of the Baseball Rule, click here.

If you or a family member or friend were involved in an accident, please call our office for a free consultation so we can discuss your rights and how best to handle your injury claim. There is no charge for speaking with one of our experienced attorneys so call us at 312.422.0500.