In 2010, a 6 year old girl sitting near home plate at Braves Stadium suffered skull fractures when she was struck by a foul ball off of Melky Cabrera’s bat. The seats she was in have no safety netting and her parents filed a lawsuit claiming the stadium owners were negligent for that omission.
The Braves responded that fans do not like watching games through netting and that the customer assumes the well known risk and is reminded of it on their ticket and in the stadium. The lawyers for the little girl have countered that children that young cannot assume the risk. The defendant tried to have the case thrown out by the trial court but the court refused and now the Georgia Court of Appeals has also refused to apply the so-called “baseball rule” across the board.
It seems that the state of the law in Georgia is that adults sitting behind the netting are barred from suit because they have legally assumed the risk. This is a common sense principal we see echoed in the law frequently. It shows up in the Equine Immunity law and in many sports case. In Georgia it is the law that golfers and spectators on a golf course assume the risk of getting struck by an errant shot although there is a duty to yell “fore” where possible.
What is unresolved is the question of whether a child can assume the risk at her young age. Having two young children, I can tell you that as a practical matter the answer is “yes.” Here is a better approach. Fans want unprotected seats for the thrill of being close to the action and the chance of catching a foul ball. Just make a rule that children cannot sit in that zone or that they have to be behind the netting; no different that not allowing children in the emergency row on an airplane.
What happened to this little girl is terrible but her father is a life long baseball fan and knew there was a danger and knew there was no net. There are plenty of negligent actions by corporations but when it comes to this case, the true blame should lie with the parent. The stadium should pay for the medical bills and institute a rule that children are no longer allowed in the zone of danger.