While entertaining, baseball games can be extremely dangerous. In a typical game, between 35 and 40 projectiles, oftentimes foul balls or fragments of broken bats, can fly into the stands, some at speeds of 100 miles per hour, according to Jon Mooallems article Youre Out: The National Pastimes Shocking Death Toll. Spectators sitting in unprotected areas of the stadium suffer the greatest risk of personal injury, as one California woman discovered in 2008, explains a lawyer in the state.
In late April of that year, 50-year-old Susan Rhodes accompanied two friends to a baseball game at Dodger Stadium. While sitting four rows behind the visitors dugout, the barrel end of a maple bat that had shattered during a base hit struck the left side of her jaw, fracturing it in two places. Days later, when the swelling finally subsided, a surgeon inserted four screws and a titanium plate into her jaw. Early medical bills totaled $7,000. The Dodgers refused to compensate her for even a portion of the expenses related to the injury.
Under California law, as well as in many other states in the country, an assumption-of-risk doctrine exculpates the owners of baseball stadiums from liability for injuries suffered by guests, according to a lawyer in the state. If a risk of injury is inherent in an activity, such as watching a baseball game, and the owner can offer proof of this, then the owner is not obligated to minimize the risk nor liable for any personal injury resulting from it. After years of balls and bats flying into the stands, such risks have been established as inherent to the sport.
A violent attack, however, is one risk fans should not have to anticipate. After a game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants on opening day of this years season, two Dodger fans brutally attacked a Giants fan from behind, knocking him to the ground, causing him to sustain a severe brain injury when his head hit the pavement. Despite rendering him defenseless, the two men continued to kick him for several minutes as onlookers made their way across the poorly-lit parking lot. Weeks later, the man remains in a medically induced coma.
Considering the measures stadium owners take to inform fans of the risks of bats and balls flying into the standscontinuous announcements over loud speakers and signs posted in multiple languages throughout the parkone would think more would be done to prevent fights and physical assaults. Numerous reports of the attack at Dodger Stadium indicated that the stadium lacked the security necessary to protect fans. Hopefully, this incident will prompt the stadium owners there and across the country to improve the safety of their parks.