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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ind. Courts - "Supreme Court could echo Idaho ruling in RailCats foul ball lawsuit"

On August 19th the Supreme Court granted transfer in the case of South Shore Baseball, LLC, d/b/a Gary South Shore Railcats v. Juanita DeJesus.

In today's NWI Times Dan Carden writes in a story that begins:

INDIANAPOLIS | A recent decision by the Idaho Supreme Court could help a region woman partially blinded after being struck by a foul ball at a 2009 RailCats game convince the Indiana Supreme Court to allow her to sue the baseball team.

In a February ruling featuring eerily similar facts, the five Idaho justices became the first court in the nation to reject the "Baseball Rule," which generally provides that a team is not liable for spectator injuries caused by the game if the team provides screened seating behind home plate.

Bud Rountree lost an eye after a foul ball struck him while he was talking with another fan and not paying attention to the game in the unscreened Executive Club section of the Boise Hawks stadium.

The Idaho Supreme Court agreed that Rountree should be permitted to sue the team because the Idaho Legislature is best suited to determine the extent to which baseball teams have a duty to protect their fans, and Idaho lawmakers have yet to limit that liability.

"Here, whether watching baseball is inherently dangerous, and the degrees of fault to be apportioned to Rountree and Boise Baseball, are questions for the jury," wrote Idaho Justice Jim Jones.

The Indiana Supreme Court last week agreed to review an appeals court ruling that prohibited Juanita DeJesus from suing the RailCats. Lake Superior Judge Calvin Hawkins initially allowed her lawsuit to proceed.

The appeals court said no trial was needed because DeJesus was warned three times by the RailCats about the danger of foul balls and chose not to buy seats behind the screen at home plate.

Like Idaho, the Indiana General Assembly has never decided whether a baseball team can be held liable for spectator injuries. Illinois law explicitly prohibits baseball fans from suing teams for game-caused injuries in nearly all circumstances.

ILB: In the Feb. 15th Court of Appeals opinion, now vacated, the COA relied on a 2011 Indiana decision involving injury on a golf course, Pfenning v. Lineman:
In Pfenning, the Indiana Supreme Court recognized that the potential to be hit by an errant shot is a risk inherent to being on a golf course and held that the risk of a person on a golf course being struck by a golf ball does not qualify as the “unreasonable risk of harm” referred to in the first two components of the Burrell three-factor test relating to liability under a theory of premises liability. 947 N.E.2d at 407. We believe the same reasoning can be applied to baseball.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 27, 2013 08:37 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts