On June 19, 1846, the first officially recorded, organized baseball match was played between the New York Base Ball Club and the Knickerbockers, just 13 miles south of our office in Hackensack.

This year, 30 professional baseball teams will each play 162 regular season games. During these games, around 1,750 fans will be struck by a foul ball or broken bat.

Thanks to a 1913 court ruling that has come to be known as the “baseball rule,” neither the teams or the players will be held responsible for the resulting injuries.

The Baseball Rule

The “Baseball Rule” imposes a limited duty on the part of teams to protect fans from foul ball injuries. The teams must provide protective screening to fans seated in the “zone of danger” behind home plate, but are not required to protect the fans elsewhere.

The idea is that fans in the zone of danger would not be able to react quickly enough if a foul ball came their way. In theory, fans who are further away from home plate should be able to move to safety if a ball comes their way, so the courts say they have assumed the risk of being in the ballpark.

Teams also like to claim that the fine print on the back of each ticket releases them from liability.

This system has been in place for over 100 years, but that does not mean that it is a good law — especially when more and more fans are being injured.

New Study Sheds Explains Why Injuries Are So Common

A new study from Nathaniel Grow of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and Zachary Flagel of the University of Georgia attempts to explain why injuries at the ballpark are becoming increasingly common.

“[F]ans attending MLB games today are sitting more than twenty percent closer to the field than they were when the legal doctrine was first established. This fact, along with other changes in the way in which the game is played and presented to fans, have converged to substantially reduce the reaction time that spectators have to protect themselves from flying objects entering the stands, calling into question courts’ continued reliance on the century-old rule,” write Grow and Flagel.

Time To Rethink The Rule

In an era when it is more common for a fan to be injured at the ballpark than it is for a batter to be hit by a pitch, it is time to rethink the baseball rule. Going to any sort of sporting event is risky, but with different incentives in place, baseball could be made much safer for its fans.

If you or a loved one has been injured while attending a sporting event, you should not let the baseball rule discourage you from seeking compensation for your injuries. We believe this bad law will one day be overturned. In the meantime, it is often possible to get some sort of compensation for your injury, and it never hurts to have an attorney on your team when you are fighting with your own insurance company for coverage.


Posted in: Personal Injury