JUUUUUST a bit outside…
It seems to be common knowledge, at least among regular patrons, that foul balls and wild throws commonly are hit into the crowd at any baseball game. Does this mean the owner of the ballpark has no responsibility for the safety of its fans? In North Carolina, owners of ballparks are under same general duty of all landowners in that they have to provide reasonable care to maintain their property for lawful visitors. In particular with North Carolina ballparks, the owners have been found to have provided reasonable care if they provide enough screened or netted seats for patrons who desire them under ordinary circumstances. If they do that and a spectator is hit by a foul ball or wild pitch in an unscreened seat, or if a fluke hit somehow gets through or behind a screen, the owner is not responsible for the injuries of the patron. This has been found to be true not only with foul balls but also wild pitches from the bullpen. It has also been found to be true where a screened seat was not available due to an unusually large crowd or where the screened seats were higher priced than a non-screened seat.
So this summer, after they say “Play Ball” enjoy the game, but pay attention and make sure your souvenir is a free ball, and not a painful and uncompensated injury.
-Bradley A. Coxe is a practicing attorney in Wilmington, NC who practices in Personal Injury, Car Accidents, Medical Malpractice, Contract and Real Estate disputes, and all forms of Civil Litigation. Please contact him at (910) 772-1678.