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In a case that a defense lawyer said could set a national precedent, the Michigan Court of Appeals has overturned a million-dollar verdict against the Detroit Tigers for injuries suffered by a child hit by a baseball bat splinter. Alyssia Benejam, then 6, of West Bloomfield, Mich., was sitting behind a screen near home plate at Tiger Stadium when a shard from a broken bat injured her hand during a game in 1994. In 1998, a Wayne County Circuit Court jury ordered the Tigers to pay Benejam $1 million. The plaintiff’s lawyer, James Elliott, a sole practitioner in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., said the injury had affected movement of the girl’s hand. The Tigers appealed and the court of appeals overturned the award to the girl. Benejam v. Detroit Tigers Inc., No. 96-618356-NI. Elliott said he planned to appeal the latest ruling to the Michigan Supreme Court. He questioned whether the Tigers provided protected seats for all those who wanted them, and said that the court “found new law in 2001 with no basis to do so.” Barbara Erard of Dickinson Wright in Detroit, attorney for the Tigers, said the appeals court found “no case in Michigan directly on point,” and so had to look to laws in other states. The appeals court held that “a baseball stadium owner is not liable for injuries to spectators that result from projectiles leaving the field during play if safety screening has been provided beyond home plate and there are a sufficient number of protected seats to meet ordinary demand.” The court added that the risk of being hit by a bat or ball is “well-known.” Erard said that although the ruling is “limited to baseball, it could be invoked in other contests involving spectator sports.” Elliott said that the “young plaintiff thought she was protected” but that “instead of addressing the issue, the appeals court came up with the limited liability rule.” Elliott has maintained that waivers of liability printed on the back of tickets purchased at sports events are invalid “because most spectators are not aware of the waiver and even if they are, they can’t read it until after they’ve bought the ticket.”

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