Who is Liable for Injuries During Baseball Games?
Spectators at baseball games assume the risk of a variety of injuries—balls and even bats sometimes hit fans and can cause serious injuries. A Phillies fan who tried to get around the law of assumption of the risk struck out when the Pennsylvania Superior Court threw his case out of court.
The spectator suffered a serious eye and head injury when he was hit by a ball thrown into the stands by a Phillies center fielder. The center fielder intentionally tossed the ball into the stands at the end of an inning, to serve as a souvenir for a lucky fan. Unfortunately, no fan caught the ball, and the injured spectator sued, claiming that while he assumed the risks associated with the play of the game, he did not assume the risk of being hit by a ball intentionally thrown into the stands.
The court disagreed. Because fans routinely arrive early for batting practice in hopes of retrieving an errant baseball as a souvenir and fans routinely clamor to retrieve balls landing in the stands via home runs or foul balls, the court found that many risks occur at baseball games in connection with souvenir balls. The court also observed that both outfielders and infielders are known to toss caught balls to fans at the end of an inning.
Pennsylvania law provides that even first‑time attendees at sporting events are presumed to know all of the customary risks that come from sitting in the stands. Those risks are not confined to events that take place during game play but include just about anything that can and does happen at a sporting event.