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All 30 MLB teams added to class action filed by ticket-holders over lack of protection from foul balls

By Jessica Karmasek | Oct 26, 2015


SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) - In an amended complaint filed against Major League Baseball last week, a group of season ticket-holders allege that nearly 90 serious injuries and near-misses have occurred at games since their original filing over the summer.

In July, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP filed a lawsuit against MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, alleging he hasn’t upheld his duties to enact safety measures that would prevent injuries caused by foul balls and bats that make their way into the stands.

The firm’s 119-page amended complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division, Friday, continues to ask for safety netting to be extended at all major and minor league ballparks from foul pole to foul pole, to protect the most dangerous areas, where spectators suffer serious injuries.

The new complaint, which adds as defendants all 30 MLB teams and as plaintiffs two individuals who have been struck by foul balls at MLB ballparks, devotes more than 30 pages to chronicling serious injuries and near-misses to spectators and includes graphic depictions of injuries -- including photos of serious injuries that happened after the initial complaint was filed.

“Our question for Rob Manfred and these member teams now is how many more traumatic brain injuries, stitches and metal plates until the MLB decides to put fans first and extend the safety netting,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and the attorney representing the fans who filed suit.

“Following the commissioner’s listless response, MLB teams have only sat idly by since we filed suit in July, and have seen horrible injuries continue yet done nothing but rake in profits.”

According to the amended complaint, 1,750 spectators are injured each year by “wayward” baseballs.

“This equates to twice every three MLB games, or, more often than a batter is hit by a pitch. In a typical MLB game, 35-40 batted balls fly into the stands.7 And ‘fly’ is the operative word,” the complaint states. “Baseballs have an average mass of 5.125 ounces, and a 90 mile per hour fastball can leave the bat at 100 miles per hour. The average professional batter’s swing impacts 4,145 pounds of force to the ball. Peak forces from such a ball can exceed 8,300 pounds -- enough to stop a Mini Cooper in its tracks.

“It is thus a serious safety hazard when foul balls fly into a ballpark’s ‘Danger Zone’ (the unprotected area along the first and third base lines).”

Berman said fans, themselves, often shoulder the blame.

“Baseball fans are continuously victim to the myth that if they just pay attention, they will avoid injuries from foul balls and bats, but we know that to be untrue,” he said.

He argues the game is changing.

“Pitching and hitting speeds are increasing, players are stronger, fans are closer to the action and distractions are more prevalent,” Berman said. “These line-drive fouls scream into the stands faster than anyone could react -- faster than you can say ‘foul.’”

The nationwide class action alleges that tens of millions attend an MLB 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 struck by a fast-moving ball or flying shrapnel from a shattered bat.

The suit seeks to require 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 2016-17 MLB season, as well as ensuring that level of safety netting at all future ballparks.

The suit also seeks 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 suit does not seek compensatory damages.

“It’s time for Major League Baseball to take action,” the amended complaint states. “It is time for baseball to do the right thing, not just for the fans, but for the sport.”

Click here to see the full list of injuries that have occurred since July 13, as compiled by Hagens Berman and included in the amended complaint.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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