Research from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business suggests that the risk of fans being hit by foul balls or errant bats at baseball games has increased in recent years and, as such, it may be time to reconsider the “Baseball Rule.”
What is the Baseball Rule?
The Baseball Rule is a legal doctrine that immunizes baseball teams and stadium owners from liability and has been in effect for over 100 years. Generally, the Baseball Rule limits the landowner duty of care owed to spectators to providing a reasonable protection in the form of screening behind home plate. Spectators who choose to view the game in an unscreened area assume the open and obvious risk of being struck by balls entering the stands during the ordinary course of play. This legal doctrine has been adopted by a majority of the courts in this country generally as a practical matter. It avoids creating a potential lawsuit for every ball entering the stands and striking a spectator. Without the Baseball Rule, each spectator injury would have to be considered on a case-by-case basis based on the particular circumstances of a particular game in each stadium setting. Naturally, this scheme would flood the courts with personal injury claims. The Baseball Rule avoids that outcome by imposing a bright-line rule: If you choose to sit in an unprotected seat, you assume the risk of getting struck by a baseball.