Should Fans be Able to Sue MLB For Foul Ball Injuries?

Albert Almora Jr. of the Chicago Cubs is comforted by Jason Heyward after a young child was injured by a foul ball off Almora's bat. The accident happened on May 29 in the fourth inning of a game against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

Should fans be allowed to sue MLB for injuries incurred from being hit by a foul ball? It’s more common than you think.

In the latest of these lawsuits, the Chicago Cubs and MLB have been named in a civil complaint. Laiah Zuniga (age 28) was sitting in the sixth row at Wrigley Field on August 27, 2018. During the Cubs/Mets match that day, she got smoked with a line drive foul in the fifth inning.

According to ESPN, “The complaint says Zuniga, who was chatting with a friend at the time she was struck, suffered permanent injuries to her ‘eyesight, smell, taste and teeth.’” She also allegedly suffered a spider fracture under both eyes and suffers recurring bloody noses.

Tracy Brammeier, the plaintiff’s attorney, said, “Major League Baseball and the Cubs were aware that severe injuries from foul balls could happen to its fans sitting in rows near the field because it had happened many times before. Just late last year the MLB announced that all 30 teams would extend netting from foul pole to foul pole this year, but it’s too late for Laiah.”

The complaint, which was filed in Chicago, states the same law firm is also representing another litigant. In that case, a Chicago man was blinded in one eye after he got smacked by a foul. This incident occurred at Wrigley in 2017.

Try Paying Attention

Look, I’m all for safety, but pay attention, already. In Zuniga’s case, she admits to chatting with a friend when the incident occurred. If people are going to attend MLB games, they need to be paying attention. I’m all for chatting with whomever I attend, but I am always mindful of when the next pitch is being delivered.

The average exit velocity at the MLB level is only 68 mph. That doesn’t sound fast, but I wouldn’t stand in the way of a car coming at that speed. Bear in mind, that average includes every ball that’s touched by a bat. No, those slow-rollers and weak pop-ups carry no threat. On the other hand, Aaron Judge (Yankees) had one homer with an exit velocity at 119.4 mph. Newsflash: Baseballs leaving bats speeds of that nature can (and will) hurt you, if you don’t pay attention.

Tickets bear disclaimers about being the risk of sitting in the stands, but apparently, they’re only as good as the paper they’re printed on. There is an abundance of these suits being filed, prompting baseball to mandate foul pole to foul pole netting to be installed at all  stadiums.

Still lingering ominously, is the suit that will likely be filed against MLB, the Astros and the Cubs. During a game in Houston, Albert Almora Jr.’s line drive foul struck a child in the stands at Minute Maid Park. In that case, the child suffered a fractured skull and now suffers from a seizure disorder.

Frivolous or Not?

You can’t deny that some of the injuries suffered by fans in these incidents are serious. I’m all for being allowed to litigate against someone who blows a red light and hits you, but when you attend a sporting event, you assume some degree of risk.

In civil law, a person is generally required to do what they can, in order to mitigate (lessen) their damages. In my estimation, when you turn away from a potentially injurious scenario, you’ve done nothing to mitigate your chances of being hurt. These players can’t control where a batted ball lands. If they could, they’d obviously all bat 1.000.

Unfortunately, civil juries will always award these claims, that is, when the teams don’t settle out of court. Installing the netting should help cut down on these suits. but it’s unfortunate (and ridiculous) that the view of the park has to be obscured because people can’t pay attention.

So, should fans be able to sue MLB for foul ball injuries? I think not.

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