Archive for July, 2014

Personal Injuries: Baseball Fans Are on Their Own

By Thomas R. Smith

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Throughout the summer, thousand of baseball fanatics will pass through the turnstiles of the many professional stadiums throughout New Jersey.  However, those who suffer personal injuries due to a foul ball, an errant throw, or a flying bat maybe without recourse to recover damages for their injuries.

In 2006, the New Jersey Baseball Spectator Act of 2006 was enacted into law.  The legislative policy behind this law was to encourage attendance at professional baseball games by limiting the civil liability of professional baseball team owners, stadium owners and operator.  Limiting civil liability will help contain costs and keep the ticket prices affordable.

The Act was in response to the New Jersey Supreme Court decision of 2005 in Maisonave v. Newark Bears, where the Court ruled that the owner of a professional baseball team, which had a limited duty of care for injuries occurring to spectators in the stands, could be liable in damages for injuries suffered by a spectator who was waiting in line for a beverage.   The victim could be awarded damages if a jury found the owner had failed to exercise reasonable care in addressing a foreseeable danger.

Under the New Jersey Spectator Baseball Act, which as stated had little concern for spectator safety, but more concern to promote ticket sales, the owner of the team, or operator of the stadium is completely immune from civil liability for injuries to spectators, so long as they post warning signs at the entrance gates, and erect protective netting behind home plate.    The Act only applies to professional baseball and does not little league, high school or college baseball.  Further, it applies to injuries that occur before, during games and activities on the field in between innings.

The Act has not achieved its stated purpose however, as many professional baseball teams have gone out of business since it was enacted.  The New Jersey Cardinals, a Class A minor league team of the St. Louis Cardinals, was sold to the Altoona Curve, who moved the franchise to University Park, Pennsylvania in 2006.  The Sussex Skyhawks replaced the vacant Cardinals in Sussex County, but folded in 2010.    The Atlantic City Surf played in Bernie Robbins Stadium from 1986 until it went out of business on March 30, 2009. And most ironic, the Newark Bears, who played at Riverfront Stadium, in Newark, announced on November 28, 2013, that it would cease operations.

So the next time you attend a game, and hear those famous words, “play ball”, you better wear you glove, and keep close attention to every at bat.