The Indiana Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit against a minor league baseball team’s parent company brought by a spectator who was blinded in one eye by a foul ball during a Gary South Shore Railcats game at their home stadium in Gary, Indiana.
Reversing a trial court, the Indiana high court ruled on June 27 that South Shore Baseball LLC was entitled to summary judgment because it provided plaintiff Juanita DeJesus with enough warnings about the risk of being hit by a ball.
“Both parties agree that South Shore notified DeJesus of the danger of foul balls by printing a warning on her ticket, posting a sign in the aisle near her seat, and making an announcement over the loudspeaker before the beginning of the game,” Justice Mark Massa wrote in a unanimous opinion .
“Based upon these efforts, South Shore would have had no reason to believe DeJesus would not realize the danger or that she would not protect herself against it,” Massa said.
The court declined to adopt a special, limited-duty rule for baseball stadiums and franchises beyond the standard principles of premises liability. Instead, the court said the state Legislature could adopt the rule, if it wanted, as four other state legislatures have done.
In 2009, a foul ball hit DeJesus in the face while she sat in a stadium section that falls just outside of the protective netting behind home plate, the opinion said. She alleged South Shore was negligent by failing to make the premises reasonably safe for her, a business invitee.
DeJesus also claimed that South Shore was “negligent in the design, construction and maintenance of the ballpark by failing to provide sufficient protective screening” and, therefore, assumed a duty of care to protect her from foul balls.
She provided the affidavit of an expert in the design of sport and recreation facilities to support her argument, the opinion said.
But the court said DeJesus’s claim failed as a matter of law because evidence showed she wasn’t relying on the netting to protect her from the danger of foul balls. “She even admitted she knew, when she was sitting in her seat, “there could be a chance that the ball could come that way.”
Laura Castro is a contributor to law.com.