As we hit the middle of the U.S. major-league baseball season, I wanted to update our readers on the latest baseball-related (but not baseball-inherent) tort.
As any major-league baseball consumer knows, at many major-league stadiums, between innings, fans are bombarded with hot dogs (and/or t-shirts) propelled into the stands from large bazooka-style air guns. At Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, the "Hotdog Launch" is carried out by the Kansas City Royals' mascot, Sluggerrr. Sluggerrrs' air gun runs out of ammo from time to time. And, so, while Sluggerrrs' flunkies are reloading the gun with dogs, Sluggerrr apparently throws dogs to (or at) fans sitting in the stands. On September 8, 2009, Sluggerrr threw a dog in the direction of a fan. The fan sued the Royals, saying that the dog hit him in the eye, causing serious injuries, including a detached retina.
The Royals said it wasn't liable because getting hit in the eye with a hot dog tossed by a team mascot is an "unavoidable risk" of attending a major-league baseball game, like getting hit with a foul ball. And, so, the Royals maintained, the fan assumed the risk.
No way, said the Missouri Supreme Court last Tuesday in Coomer v. Kansas City Royals Baseball Corporation. To quote the Court: "the risk of being injured by Sluggerrr’s hotdog toss is not one of the inherent risks of watching a Royals home game."
Two other points:
(1) On the evening of Sluggerrrs' tort, the Royals won "a thrilling 7-5 effort that snapped the first-place Tigers’ six-game winning streak."
(2) This may not have been Sluggerrrs' first tort: "the jury heard testimony from another fan who claimed to have been injured by a hotdog toss from Sluggerrr under similar circumstances."