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Appeals Court Rejects MLB Netting Class-Action Certification

Major League Baseball logoA federal appeals court has rejected a proposed class-action lawsuit seeking to mandate netting from foul pole to foul pole in MLB ballparks, saying the risk of a fan being struck by a foul ball is low and that the fear of injury does not warrant major changes.

The lawsuit, filed by Oakland A’s fan Gail Payne and Los Angeles Dodgers fan Stephanie Smith, had been whittled down in court proceeds last year, with the remaining claim that fear of injury at the Oakland Coliseum and Dodger Stadium should force the Dodgers and Athletics to make netting changes. That claim was rejected by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who ruled that the likelihood of injury was so small it did not merit class-action status.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld that decision, agreeing that the fear of injury did not rise to the level of class-action status, according to the San Francisco Chronicle:

That’s not enough to show that she faces a “certainly impending injury,” as required for a safety-related lawsuit, the three-judge panel said.

And a fan’s “general anxiety” about being struck is not the type of injury that can sustain a suit, the court said, because it is “based on fears of hypothetical future harm that is not certainly pending.”

Still, the issue is certainly of concern in pro-baseball circles. MLB requires netting to the near end of the dugouts, but so far 11 MLB teams have announced extended netting to the far ends of the dugouts (and even beyond, according to the Minnesota Twins) for 2018. Several MiLB and spring-training ballparks will see extended netting in 2018 as well.

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