Injury by wiener. Not your usual reported injury. Still, as described by Sports Illustrated, this is the story of a sports injury that is headed to the Missouri Supreme Court. The Court is deciding whether the “baseball rule” applies to injuries that are caused by a team mascot.
There is a legal doctrine called the baseball rule that protects sports teams from being sued over fan injuries that are caused by events on the field. This has never been extended to injuries that fans suffer as a result of conduct by a team mascot.
In 2009, the Kansas City Royals mascot Sluggerrr, hit a fan with a foil-wrapped hot dog when he tossed it behind his back and into the stands. John Conner did not see the hot dog and it hit him in his eye. As a result, he has had two surgeries; one to repair a detached retina and the other to remove a cataract that developed. Coomer’s vision is now permanently damaged and he has paid approximately $4800 in medical bills.
The case went to trial and the jury sided with the Royals, determining that Conner knew what was going on around him. Conner appealed and the Court of Appeals vacated the judgment for the Royals but found that a mascot’s conduct was protected, just like getting hit by a foul ball.
Now, the Missouri Supreme Court is going to hear oral arguments on the appeal. This appears to be a case with few prior rulings across the country relating to whether the Royals or any sports team owes any duty to its fans.
Whatever the ruling, this case could have some impact on the future liability of teams and what is considered to be an essential part of a game. The attached article also cites other recent cases that did find some basis for liability.
One 1997 California case found that a mascot’s conduct did not extend as an esssential part of a baseball game. In that case, a minor league baseball team’s dinosaur brushed against a fan, distracting him right before a baseball hit him in the face. That fan suffered several broken bones in his face. So, from a legal viewpoint, the Court will decide the question in Missouri of how far the “baseball rule” extends to protect from liability.
DID YOU KNOW that before 1859, baseball umpires sat in padded rocking chairs behind the catcher, to call balls and strikes.
And for pic o’ day…