Although the recent performance of the Colorado Rockies’ bullpen might have caused you to cancel all plans to visit Coors Field this year, you should still know something about the Colorado Baseball Spectator Safety Act.
This law has little to do with spectator safety. Rather, its purpose is to protect owners of professional baseball teams and stadiums from lawsuits by injured spectators.
The act begins by saying that, although attending baseball games involves risks, it is nonetheless a “wholesome and healthy family activity” that the General Assembly wants to encourage. A way to do this, the act says, is to make “ticket prices more affordable.” And one way to make ticket prices more affordable is to limit the liability of owners of baseball teams and stadiums for injuries to spectators.
The Baseball Spectator Safety Act comes from a long-standing concept in personal injury law known as assumption of risk. Under the doctrine of assumption of risk, you can’t recover damages if you’re injured in a predictable way doing something you knew was dangerous. The Baseball Spectator Safety Act makes it clear that, when attending a baseball game, you assume the risk of being hit by balls and bats.
But the owners can’t be wholly careless. They continue to be liable for injuries from a failure to “make a reasonable and prudent effort to design, alter and maintain the premises of the stadium in a reasonably safe condition … . ” Thus, for example, there still needs to be a screen behind home plate and a railing in front of the upper decks.
The act also states that a spectator has a right to recover damages for injuries caused by another spectator. Thus, if you are assaulted by a fellow spectator who is offended by your comments , you could file a lawsuit.
The concept of “inherent risk” was central to a case decided by the Missouri Supreme Court in 2014. In that case, a spectator suffered a detached retina when struck in the eye by a hot dog thrown by the Kansas City Royals’ mascot, Sluggerr, during a between-innings event.
A jury sided with the team after being instructed it could decide what constituted an inherent risk of attending a baseball game. But the Missouri Supreme Court said, no, what constitutes an inherent risk is a question of law for the court to decide and being injured by a flying hot dog is not a risk inherent in going to a baseball game.
The case was sent back to the lower court for a new trial, at which the jury would determine whether Sluggerr was negligent when he made a behind-the-back hot dog toss that struck the plaintiff in the eye. The lengthy opinion in this case points out that baseball wouldn’t be any fun if spectators were fully protected from flying balls and bats.
However, flying hot dogs are not essential to enjoyment of the game.