Millions of Americans attend sporting events each year, and spectator injuries are commonplace. While injuries can happen at any professional sporting event, most injuries occur at hockey and baseball games, followed by golfing events and Nascar races. New Hampshire sporting event injury lawsuits tend to involve slip-and-fall claims or struck-by-object claims. These cases are complex and require a comprehensive understanding of various theories of tort liability and defenses.
Under New Hampshire premises liability laws, stadium owners and operators must take reasonable steps to protect visitors and guests from foreseeable harm. However, generally, courts operate under the premise that professional sport event attendees should understand the risk of attending an event, as it is obvious that an object can hit them. Historically, the “baseball” rule shielded baseball teams or sponsoring organizations from liability if a spectator is struck by a foul ball batted into the stands. The rule applies if the owner or operator provided some netting or screening. However, in light of some recent cases, the rule has come under scrutiny.
While spectators who attend professional sporting events may assume the inherent dangers of the event, the venue still has a responsibility to protect its spectators as these injuries can have long-lasting and potentially fatal consequences. For instance, national sources recently reported on a settlement between the Astros and the parents of a toddler who was hit by a foul ball. The toddler attended a 2019 Houston Astros game when she was hit by a ball off the bat of a Cubs center fielder. The impact resulted in a fractured skull and permanent brain damage. The family waited two years after the accident to seek damages against the team. They stated that the delay was so that the family could completely understand the lasting impact of the incident. The girl is now four years old and has been on anti-seizure medicine since the incident.