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Flying Fenway Bat Calls New Attention to the Baseball Rule

06/10/2015

A tragic accident often leads to calls for re-examination of a long-accepted part of culture.  This past week, after a broken bat at Fenway Park seriously injured a fan, commentators are calling for a re-examination of the baseball rule: stadium owners and operators have only a limited duty to fans to protect them from baseballs or other items flying from the field of play. Every few years the baseball rule is challenged. For example, a 2009 accident at a Houston Astros game resulted in a fan losing her eye. That case wound its way through the Texas courts, with the plaintiff’s claims shut down at both the trial and appellate levels; she did not even garner an audience with the Texas Supreme Court. The baseball rule was too strong.

Is the recent accident at Fenway Park any different? Should the fact that the injury was caused by a flying piece of a broken bat, and not just a foul ball, call for reconsideration of the limited duty to protect fans? Or should recent events merely serve as an excuse or motivation to consider the obligation of the MLB, stadium owners and operators to protect a larger segment of fans with netting?

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