Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Sunday, August 08, 2004

Even More Assumption of Risk: It seems that I can write on little else this summer. A New Jersey appellate court has now ruled that baseball parks must provide protection for fans who are out of their seats and distracted by stadium offerings, including concession stands. The judge in Maisonave v. Newark Bears wrote:

"It is not only foreseeable, but inevitable, that in the process of placing orders or reaching for money or accepting the purchases or striking up conversations with others on line, spectators will be distracted from the action on the field and the risk of injury from flying objects will be increased significantly."

The judge ruled that while spectators have the responsibility to look out for their own safety, the off-field distractions require the parks to provide for some spectator protection. The court does not discuss, however, how this could be achieved. The park already had protection for the most dangerous area (a screen behind home plate). The spectator was on the mezzanine level (above field level). Should parks be required to place screens all the way around the park, from the field to the upper deck? Or perhaps each concession stand should be staffed with a guardian who can jump in front of any foul balls, small birds or any other flying object that could cause harm to a spectator. Under a ruling such as this, it is hard to know what else would prevent a sea of potential legal claims.