Posted by: Bob Gorman | July 7, 2010

Injuries from Foul Balls

No one knows for sure how many fans are injured every year by foul balls entering the stands.  Major League Baseball claims not to know, although detailed information on all types of fan injuries is kept by every first aid station at every major and minor league park in the country.  If organized ball really wanted to know, all it would have to do is survey this data.  And it can be done, even within the restrictions governing patient privacy imposed by the HIPAA regulations.

Interestingly, the Boston Red Sox did such a survey several years ago.  The Sox were being sued by a fan who had been injured by a foul ball (Jane Costa vs. The Boston Red Sox Baseball Club, 61 Mass. App. Ct. 299).  In its defense, the club produced statistical data showing just how common foul ball injuries were.   In effect, the Boston Red Sox were making the traditional “assumption of risk” argument that has protected ball teams for over a century (even though, in Massachusetts, the courts have abolished the use of “assumption of risk” as a positive defense).  Basically, “assumption of risk” argues that everyone knows that balls and bats frequently enter the stands during a game.  As long as “adequate” measures are taken to protect fans, such as protective screening behind home plate, the club is not liable if a fan is injured by a flying object while seated or standing in an unprotected area.  There are some limitations to this legal defense, but typically the courts have ruled that fans have assumed the risk of attending games and the club’s responsibility to protect them is limited.

The Red Sox produced a spreadsheet of foul ball injuries covering a five-year period in the 1990s.  The club found that injuries ranged from a low of 36 to a high of 53 per season.  While many of these were from fans chasing foul balls, quite a few were from balls striking the fans.  (By the way, I have access just to the summary of the case.  If anyone knows were I can acquire a copy of the actual spreadsheet, please let me know.)  The courts ruled in favor of the Sox.

So why, if the Sox could do this sort of survey, doesn’t Major League Baseball do one for every team?  MLB keeps all sorts of detailed statistics, including those on broken bats, so why not fan injuries?  I have a theory as to why and I call it “the ignorance is bliss” defense.  Baseball doesn’t know because it doesn’t want to know.  By turning a blind eye to the issue, MLB can claim it simply isn’t aware that there is any serious problem concerning foul ball/flying bat injuries.  Once it has the data, though, MLB will be forced to address the issue or be held liable for not doing anything about it.

What are your thoughts on this matter?



  1. You’re so interesting! I don’t think I have read through something like this before.

    So nice to find someone with a few genuine thoughts on this topic.
    Really.. thank you for starting this up. This site is something that is needed on the web, someone with some originality!

  2. I was hit in the head at a minor league game. I was so disgusted about the fact that I was hospitalized for a brain hemorrage and not even a phone call from the team manager or baseball club president. Someone took the ball too. How can you not note who and how someone gets a brain bleed at your stadium?? That’s not negligence? Please.

    My blog is I have dedicated it to injured/deceased fans and their families. Especially their children that witnessed the incident

    • It’s breathtaking how callous some baseball organizations can be. My guess is that some team attorney tells them to ignore such incidents out of a fear of lawsuits, believing that any such contact with the injured fan is some sort of admission of culpability or responsibility. I hope you’ve had no lasting problems from your injury and I appreciate what you’re doing with your blog. Organized baseball needs to address the issue of fan safety, but refuses to do so because of the near-blanket protection it receives from the “assumption of risk” legal doctrine. My guess is that hundreds of fans are seriously injured every year at major and minor league games, but no one knows for sure because baseball has been allowed to ignore the issue. No other business gets away with ignoring client/patron/customer safety and neither should organized ball.

  3. This is a great source of information. I was injured at Dodger stadium by a fan falling on me after he jumped in the middle of the crowded stands after a foul ball. The crowd had been rowdy the whole game and no-one from the dodger organization did anything to patrol the crowd. Of course they are claiming no liability, but the fact that they did nothing to ensure safety via the crowd, nor did they take any reports from the people who complained, I find it hard to believe that they have no liability. I am still fighting this fight.

    • Myrna,

      I’m sorry to hear about your experience at Dodger Stadium. It’s curious that stadium security did not respond to complaints about misbehavior among a group of fans. I’m no attorney, but it strikes me that the organization does have some responsibility for maintaining order in such a public gathering. Certainly the “assumption of risk” legal doctrine that has provided baseball with near-blanket protection for far too long would not apply in this situation as you describe it. No one goes to a ball game with any expectation that they might be injured by the behavior of some foolish fan. Best of luck with your ongoing fight to hold the Dodger organization accountable.

  4. I was hit directly in the face while holding a soldiers 9 month old baby. I lost my right eye. I now have PSTD and brain bruise, and lost all my memories prior to the accident. I was given a ball signed by the player who hit the ball but a no return address. It was funny, cause the Col. who lead my husbands unit a couple of month later was given a proclamation by the Houston Astors. I tried to sue but never saw a judge… My court date was given then 3 days later overturned in favor of the team….I know something is really fishy here. I have decided to do something about it. It is not fair that this law protect just one side….here you can read the story…
    here you can sign my petiton:
    Thank you…

  5. […] by the Boston Red Sox Baseball Club are accurate for that time frame, it’s clear that one second is hardly enough time to react quickly if your nose is buried in a phone at the time. It’s […]

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