Monday, July 29, 2019

Debate about safety netting around baseball parks continues

One of the more talked about themes during this baseball season is the increased amount of home runs (and the speculation that it has something to do with the way baseballs are manufactured).  Another continues to be the debate about whether baseball parks should extend the protective netting along the baselines.

If you are a baseball fan, you know that baseball parks offer safety netting to protect fans close to home filed from foul balls, errant throws and bats flying into the stands. Traditionally, the netting extends from just about half way to first base to about half way to third base.  

Yet, last year, in response to a number of incidents in which spectators were seriously hurt by foul balls along the baselines beyond the ends of protective netting some ballparks decided to extend the netting further down along the baselines.

Unfortunately, this season has already seen several such accidents and the debate about the netting has reignited.  Here in Chicago, at least two star Cubs players (Javier Baez and Kris Bryant) have called for the use of more netting.  

As you probably know, spectators usually do not have a remedy in tort available because of the so called "baseball rule" which is essentially a derivation of the notion of assumption of the risk.  I have argued the use of the rule is inconsistent with general principles of tort law, but it continues to be applied in many jurisdictions.  (Idaho is one which has refused to adopt it. See here.)   For some of my comments on the rule in general, go here, here and here.  For my posts on this and other topics related to baseball go here.

NPR recently posted a short radio segment on the issue.  You can listen to it below, or you can read the full story here.  It includes a video of one of the recent incidents (I also included it below).  It does NOT show the fan (in this case a young child) getting hit.  What it shows is the reaction of the players on the field.  Notice the reaction of the catcher the moment the ball goes into the stands; while the batter needed to be consoled by teammates and his manager.

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