The Cleveland Indians and the “Baseball Rule”
While attending a baseball game at Cleveland’s Progressive Field in July 2012, Keith Rawlins and his daughter were cheering for the Indians from seats along the third base line. During the top of the ninth inning, Rawlins was allegedly pressured by ushers to vacate his seat in preparation for a post-game fireworks display. As he left, he was struck by a foul ball, which blinded him in one eye and ended his career as a tool and die maker. Can Rawlins recover for his injuries?
In most cases, fans injured during a baseball game cannot recover from the team. The well-established “baseball rule” states that fans assume the risks of attending a game, particularly the risk of being struck by a foul ball. A team cannot generally be held liable for injuries occurring during the normal course of a game – unless its actions increased the inherent risk of attending a game.
Earlier this month, the Eighth District Court of Appeals considered that very question in Rawlins v. Cleveland Indians Baseball Co., Inc. In its decision, the appeals court found that questions of fact remained as to if Indians employees increased the risk to Rawlins. The court remanded the case to the Cuyahoga Court of Common Pleas for a determination of whether ushers did ask Rawlins to vacate his seat and if so, whether those actions increased the inherent risk of the game.