Posts Tagged ‘baseball insurance’

Spectator Injuries at the Ballpark

Does the “Baseball Rule” need to be revisited?

Spectators and baseball stadium employees occasionally suffer injuries from home run balls and shattered bats flying into the stands. However, foul balls were the most frequent cause of the 1,750 spectator injuries that occurred last year in major league baseball, according to Elias Sports Bureau.  That number translates to about two injuries for every three games. That’s more than the 1535 occurrences of batters being hit by pitches in the 2013 season.

What’s worse is the rising trend in foul ball injuries. Contributing to the increase in incidents are seats in the new and renovated ballparks being seven percent closer to the field, stronger players, and spectators who are increasingly distracted by smart phones and the flashing messages and graphics on enormous electronic scoreboards.

Hard-hitting facts

Fans have almost no time to respond to foul balls driving into the stands, sometimes at more than 100 mph. A ball traveling at 80 mph is traveling 117 feet per second. Spectators sitting 150 feet from home plate have only a second to dodge the missile.

In response to the 2002 death of a fan by a flying puck, the National Hockey League required netting behind the goal and taller Plexiglas shields over the side boards. Major League Baseball has done almost nothing to reduce such risks and maintains that individual teams are responsible for the safety of spectators. Following the death of a minor league first-base coach in 2007 after being hit by a line drive into foul territory, it was mandated that all base coaches must wear helmets.

The “Baseball Rule” culture

The courts are apparently paying attention:  judges hearing appeals in Georgia and Idaho this year rejected arguments invoking the “Baseball Rule.” That’s a long-standing principle that absolves stadium owners and teams from liability as long as the spectators in the seats behind home plate are protected by netting.

MLB teams are responsible for their stadium backstop designs, display of warning signs and following local safety ordinances. Injuries this year took place in seating in field level and 2nd-tier seats, as well as the higher sections that are typical landing grounds for home run balls.

Source: David Glovin, bloomberg.com, 09 Sept. 2014.

Accident Insurance and Baseball

Spectator injuries not covered by Little League policy

New Jersey’s Elizabeth Lloyd, is suing for more than $150,000 in damages after being hit in the face by a baseball. Although Matthew Migliaccio was only 11 years old at the time of the incident, the lawsuit filed in April claims that Migliaccio’s overthrow from the bullpen was deliberate and reckless.

Lloyd is filing suit to cover for medical costs and pain and suffering, while her husband is suing for the loss of “services, society and consortium.”

The count alleging Migliaccio’s negligence is covered by the family’s Homeowner’s policy, but the other counts are not. Little League has denied any coverage, due to their accident policy only covering staff or players; spectators are not included.

In my opinion:

Little League is correct that spectator injuries are not covered by an Accident policy. However, “Accident like” benefits for spectator injuries up to a limit of $5,000 can be covered if the General Liability policy includes premises medical payments. Otherwise, if damages are greater than $5,000, the only recourse for an injured spectator is to sue. Such lawsuits would be covered under a General Liability policy under the Each Occurrence section. This case is similar to one that one of our league clients had about ten years ago when a spectator was hit in the jaw by an overthrow ball during pre game warm-ups. It was alleged that the league and coaches were negligent in allowing the players to form two lines for warm-ups where one line was too close to an unfenced spectator area. The carrier settled the case for around $300,000 but the damages were extensive.

-John Sadler

Source: Insurance Journal, June 26, 2012