A judge has dismissed the Chicago Cubs from a lawsuit over a foul ball injury at Wrigley Field that left a man partially blind, citing the “Baseball Rule.” The Plaintiff’s lawsuit against Major League Baseball, however, has been allowed to go forward.
Man Left Partially Blind
On August 29, 2017, John “Jay” Loos and his son Adam attended a Chicago Cubs home game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Loos was seated in a section that overlooked a stretch of the first base line extending into the outfield. During the game, Chad Kuhl, a pitcher for the Pirates, batted a line-drive foul ball into the stands that struck Loos in the face.
Loos, who was bleeding from the left eye as a result of the foul ball injury, was then taken by ambulance to an area hospital for treatment. The impact of the foul ball reportedly broke five facial bones and tore a hole in his sinus. He has undergone multiple surgeries and was left partially blind as a result of his injuries.
Foul Ball Injury Lawsuit
On October 6, 2017, Loos and his attorney filed a personal injury lawsuit against the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball in Cook County Circuit Court, seeking “at least $50,000.00” in financial damages to compensate Loos for his foul ball injury.
The Chicago Cubs lawsuit alleged that the organization was negligent because Wrigley Field does not provide sufficient spectator netting to protect attendees sitting in the stands. The attorney for Loos contends that expanded spectator netting could have prevented his foul ball injury, adding that such netting is standard in Japan.
Baseball Rule Used to Dismiss Cubs from Lawsuit
In March 2018, Cook County Circuit Judge John Callahan Jr. dismissed the Chicago Cubs from the lawsuit, arguing Loos and his attorney had failed to adequately show that the team acted recklessly.
The Baseball Rule frees teams from liability from injuries from batted balls if the team alerts attendees of the risk outside of areas where netting is required.
The only exceptions to the Baseball Rule are if an injured person is seated behind a screen or backstop that is defective, or if the injury is caused by “willful and wanton conduct.”
Judges across the country have frequently thrown out such lawsuits against baseball teams. Moreover, Illinois is one of four states where the legislature enshrined the Baseball Rule into law. The law absolves stadium owners of liability so long as an adequate number of seats — largely in the area looking onto home plate — are behind protective netting. Fans who sit elsewhere are presumed to have willingly assumed the risk of being hit by a bat or a ball.
Loos’ attorney filed an amended complaint alleging that the Cubs engaged in willful and wanton conduct when they did nothing about the increase in the number of fans being struck by foul balls.
On August 15, 2018, however, Judge Callahan dismissed Loos’ amended complaint without prejudice, saying that it did not cause him to stray from his first ruling.
Wrigley Field displays green “Be Alert for Foul Balls!” signs featuring a baby bear fielding a pop fly. Furthermore, while Loos did not have a ticket and was let in by a friend who worked for the Cubs, similar language is on every ticket and on the online seating map – meaning that he would have been warned of the risk.
In a motion for the Defense, the Chicago Cubs’ attorney alleged that the Plaintiffs are really after a repeal of the Baseball Act, which is a question for the legislature, not the courts.
“In the 25 years since it enacted the Baseball Act, the General Assembly has not reconsidered its public policy judgment nor placed any new limits on immunity,” the motion stated. “Plaintiff cannot ask this [c]ourt to do what the legislature has not.”
Loos’ attorney plans to continue with discovery against Major League Baseball, but also did not rule out going after the Cubs again should new information come to light to justify it.<< BACK TO BLOG POSTS