Lawsuit Pushing to Enhance Fan Safety at MLB games

fan safety at MLB gamesWhat’s the problem with fan safety at MLB games?

A lawsuit has pushed Major League Baseball to increase fan safety at MLB games.

While all major league baseball stadiums in the U.S. do have safety netting behind home plate, the amount varies and there are seats that may be considered dangerous located elsewhere. An Oakland Athletics season-ticket holder filed a class action lawsuit in July, asking that the league’s teams improve safety measures for fans. Though MLB filed a motion for dismissal in October, the litigation must have had some sort of effect, because Commissioner Robert Manfred recently suggested that teams extend safety netting in their ballparks.

MLB makes changes as legitimacy of ‘the Baseball Rule’ is questioned

“The Baseball Rule” has long existed to protect teams from lawsuits. The rule assumes that individuals who purchase tickets to a baseball game are going to the event to watch the sport. This means it is on the fans to recognize when a ball or shard from a broken bat is flying toward them. This assumption may have been sensible years ago, but these days there are myriad in-game distractions that may cause fans to take their eyes away from the action for a short period, such as smart phones or ballpark amenities. The changes in how fans view the game in-person have led to questions about the validity of the Baseball Rule in the modern game. Now Manfred is making an effort to improve fan safety by suggesting teams extend nets, though there is still some onus on the fans, as evidenced by a planned education program.

Regarding netting, Manfred suggested that teams extend the barriers to their ballparks’ dugouts. While the suggested changes aren’t extensive, they are a sign that MLB understands that fan safety is in decline at ballparks and the league is responsible for doing something about that. The Baseball Rule may still be in effect for many fans who attend games, but next season here will be a slight increase in those who can take comfort in the fact that they’re seated behind a protective net.

Future of ballpark protections uncertain as teams extend netting

Whether the league decides to mandate the extension of netting or implementation other fan safety measures in the future is less certain. Even with the larger nets, there will be a large number of fans in-danger of being hit by bat debris or foul balls come the 2016 season.

If you believe you were wrongfully injured while attending a baseball game, or that you are in danger at future games you plan to view, talk to an experienced sports law attorney for more on fan safety and the Baseball Rule.

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Anthony R. Caruso is a business transactional attorney in New York and New Jersey with experience in structuring, negotiation and completion of legal deals involving business, entrepreneurs, athletes and performers.

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