The lawsuit alleges that tens of millions attend a Major League Baseball game annually, and every year fans of all ages, but often children, suffer horrific and preventable injuries, such as blindness, skull fractures, severe concussions and brain hemorrhages, when they are struck by a fast-moving ball or flying shrapnel from a shattered bat.
The complaint filed on July 13, 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleges that at the same time that the commissioner has failed to act to protect spectators, he has continued to make statements that promote Major League ballparks as safe and family-friendly and has sought to increase attendance of young fans, a demographic that is highly at risk for foul ball and bat injuries.
The nationwide class action seeks to change current MLB rules and practices, including requiring the MLB to retrofit all existing major league and minor league indoor and outdoor ballparks to extend protective netting from foul pole to foul pole by the beginning of the 2016-2017 MLB season. Relief sought also stipulates that all future ballparks intended to house major or minor league baseball games need to include at minimum this amount of safety netting. Plaintiffs also seek to create a program to study spectator injuries in an effort to continually reevaluate whether additional measures should be taken, so that precautionary measures can continue to evolve as the sport continues to evolve.
The seats in the exposed areas just past the netting, along first and third base, between the foul poles, where most foul balls are hit, are often occupied by families because they are more affordable and/or protected seats are sold out, the complaint alleges. These seats are often occupied by young fans However the area along the foul lines poses a particular danger to spectators. It is particularly dangerous because it is not protected from flying balls and bats by protective netting, and because traditionally, line drive fouls are normally hit flush, and send the ball at a higher velocity down the lines.
According to the suit, the combination of right-handed power pitchers and left-handed hitters that are likely to swing late at fastballs tends to make the area behind and near the third base dugouts particularly dangerous. The first and third base lines are also dangerous because of their proximity to the bases, where players often throw at high velocity toward the bases in attempts to tag out runners.
The suit also alleges that the commissioner has actively increased distractions and entertainment in the parks to appeal to younger fans, including enhanced larger JumboTron screens and displays.
Plaintiffs are represented by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro and Hilliard Muñoz and Gonzales LLP.