8.07.2009

The baseball rule doesn't apply in New Mexico...

...according to the New Mexico Court of Appeals, and that's not particularly good news for the Albuquerque Isotopes. The Court says individuals hurt by baseballs can sue teams and stadium owners in the state. (The baseball rule says anyone attending a baseball game automatically accepts the inherent danger associated with watching the sport live as long as there is a net behind home plate.)

The parents of a four-year-old boy struck in the head in 2003 when a batter hit a ball into the picnic area at Isotopes Park during batting practice can sue the team and the city, the court ruled, noting that there is "no public policy reason to justify bestowing immunity on the business of baseball." The family can proceed with the lawsuit in state District Court in Albuquerque.
The Isotopes and the city of Albuquerque will ask the state Supreme Court to review the decision.

The boy was with his family in the left field picnic area on July 21, 2003 when Dave Matrangaof the New Orleans Zephyrs hit a batting practice home run that fractured the boy's skull, causing permanent brain damage. Although the parents also sued Mr. Matranga and the Houston Astros (the Zephyrs' affiliate at the time), the Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court that they should be dismissed as defendants.

Some form of the baseball rule has been put in place in about two dozen states. The interesting contention by the family's lawyer is that the baseball rule amounts to special treatment for the sport and stems from an era before baseball was the multi-billion dollar enterprise that it is today. The family contends that the Isotopes club was negligent in having people sit in an unprotected area where placement of tables turns picnicker's attention away from the field and where there are no warning signs or announcements when batting practice begins. (That hasn't seemed to change much.)

The dissenting judge said failing to use the baseball rule is a rejection of "nearly one hundred years of American jurisprudence" and isolates New Mexico from other states.

Beyond right field in Isotopes Park is a berm where fans can watch the game. Above the berm is a play area for children. Beyond left field is the picnic area.

Ballfield image from Baseballpilgrimages.com.

2 comments:

I LOVE THIS GAME said...

Great post!

RobertS. said...

this story has bugged me ever since KOB-TV reported it the other night.

I hope one (or both) things happen:

1) the loser judge Pat Murdoch doesn't hear the case or the Topes automatically lose and the kid becomes a billionaire.

2) the judgement is portioned. The Isotopes should be only no more than 25% responsible for the total judgment if the kid's bottomfeeder can make the case to a jury that the Isotopes signage and lack of PA announcements about fly balls is not good enough and make the retarded (medical sense, not derogatory) kid is at least 75% responsible for the accident because he and his family can't put together the fact MLB-caliber players taking batting practice can deposit balls over the fence and that there are Flyball Zone signs all around the picnic area and thus know they should be watching out for any fly balls that may land and hit someone.