In law school they tought us that fans more or less assume the risk of balls and bats and stuff flying into the stands at ballgames. Not so in Iowa, at least when you’re a kid:
The lawsuit stems from a June 2003 Quad City River Bandits game in Davenport that Tara Sweeney, 8, attended as part of a field trip organized by the Bettendorf parks and recreation department. Sweeney sat in the third or fourth row of bleachers about 30 feet past third base, beyond the area where a net protects spectators, according to court records.
When Sweeney turned her head to talk to a friend, a player lost control of his bat, which traveled about 120 feet and struck the girl in the head. Her mother had signed a liability waiver that absolved the city of responsibility for accidents or injuries on the field trip. But the Sweeneys argued that supervisors of the outing were nonetheless negligent.
A Scott County judge threw out the lawsuit.
But the Supreme Court ruled that the city had “a duty to … protect the children’s safety at the ballpark,” adding that a jury could find parks employees put the child in an “unreasonably hazardous location” to watch the game.
I’ve never known how to feel about the law in this area. I used to just laugh off the concept of stadium/team liability, but then a few years ago a young girl was killed by a puck at a Columbus Blue Jackets hockey game. Intellectually I can appreciate that that was a freak occurrence, but as a father I don’t think that would make me feel better if it were my daughter who was killed or, in the case of the flying bat here, injured.
I think I still lean in the direction of “you buys your ticket, you takes your chances,” but I don’t presume to know the right answer here.