Though it has previously hit some roadblocks, a lawsuit concerning netting at MLB and MiLB parks may be moving forward.
In July of last year we covered this case, in which Oakland A’s fan and plaintiff Gail Payne asserted in federal court that teams should be required to extend netting at ballparks from foul pole to foul pole. Her claim was built around the basis that fans in higher levels of seating ( such as the 200-level seat from O.Co Coliseum shown above) are unprotected, and that current netting standards only protects fans in lower, more expensive levels of ballparks. (You can see the complaint against MLB here.)
Previously, the case was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who at the time cited a lack of jurisdiction. Yet, Rogers offered a different stance during oral arguments Tuesday, saying that the number of injuries at ballparks may make her consider to allow the trial to move forward against California-based teams. More from Courthouse News Service:
Fans, often children, have been blinded and had their skulls fractured by stray balls and bats, according to the lawsuit. A 14-year-old boy died at Dodger Stadium after being hit by a ball in 1970.
“One of the things that has always concerned me about this case are the allegations that the pitchers themselves do not allow their children to sit in those sections,” Judge Rogers said at the hearing. “Then I see the exhibit from Dodger Stadium and it’s interesting to me how often children are listed as the victims of the injury. Isn’t it time for a jury to decide if something is there? “
In dismissing claims against out-of-state clubs in April, Rogers ordered more jurisdictional discovery on the probability of being injured while sitting in specific sections of the Oakland Coliseum and Dodger Stadium.
Rogers on Tuesday still questioned whether the plaintiffs have standing to sue, calling the league’s fan-injury statistics “incredibly small.”
Last year, Payne had cited a Bloomberg News article that stated 1,750 fans are injured by foul balls annually. MLB has said that these claims are exaggerated, and league attorney Adam Lauridsen cited statistics that state that the current chances of being injured by a foul ball in an unprotected area are 3 in 1,000.
There are some questions about how teams at all levels can improve their netting and fan safety amenities, and the lawsuit comes at a time where these questions are still being asked. Still, it would interesting to see how such a scenario plays out, particularly if Rogers allows a case against California teams, even as she expresses some doubts about the statistics cited by the plaintiff in the case.