Foul Ball Suit Seeks More Protection for Baseball Fans

By Robert Burnson | July 14, 2015

Fans in box seats at Major League Baseball games might have less use for their gloves if Oakland A’s fan Gail Payne gets her way.

Payne cited the estimated 1,750 fans a year who are struck by balls, mostly fouls, in a group lawsuit seeking to force major league stadiums throughout the U.S. to erect safety nets from “foul pole to foul pole.”

“It is time for the commissioner and his office to take action, to protect spectators in the most dangerous areas of the ballpark, where a growing number of fans are suffering serious and entirely preventable injury,” Payne said in her complaint, referring to MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred.

Her complaint filed Monday in federal court in Oakland, California, follows others that have sought to hold teams and stadium owners legally liable for spectators injured by errant balls and broken bats. The league has failed to provide a consistent policy for safety netting, she said.

“Fan safety is our foremost goal for all those who choose to support our game by visiting our ballparks, and we always strive for that experience to be safe and fan-friendly,” MLB said in a statement. “Major League Baseball is in the process of re-evaluating all issues pertaining to fan safety, comfort and expectations. We are discussing these issues with the clubs and the Major League Baseball Players Association also could become a party to these conversations.”

The case is Payne v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, 4:15-cv-03229, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland).

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