On April 20, 2015, a woman attending a Cubs-Pirates baseball game suffered a traumatic brain injury after a ball was tipped behind so hard it hit her head, despite the protective net. The woman was on her way on her first-row seat, right behind home plate. With her back turned to the action, the ball was fouled, and hit her on the back of the head. She suffered from a traumatic brain injury, concussion, and continues to suffer from migraines, sleep disorders, vertigo, neck pain, and several other injuries. The woman has brought a case against Major League Baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, and a municipality organization.
In her case, the woman argues that the safety net was not effective, and gave the false expectation that spectators would be protected from the inherent harm from sitting behind home plate. The issue of foul ball injuries has been heavily litigated. Baseball clubs have often hidden behind the defense of assumption of risk. That is, fans assume the risk of being hit by a ball or bat when sitting in areas that are close to the field. Courts have often said that the risk of being hit by a ball or bat is open and obvious; meaning, a reasonable person would know that there is an inherent risk of injury when sitting so close to the action. With that being said, baseball clubs still have to take reasonable actions to ensure the safety of the fans; this often includes safety nets behind home plate or warning signs by the dugouts.
Despite the case law, the woman in her case has a legitimate chance of winning. If there is any part of the baseball field that needs extra protection, it has to be the area behind home plate. It is foreseeable that the patrons sitting behind would be at risk with stray balls hitting them. Given the strength of the athletes and the speed that pitchers are pitching with, a mesh net is probably not effective in protecting the fans. Even if this case does not go to trial, it continues to ask questions to Major League Baseball on how to ensure the safety of fans when it seems that every year a new foul ball injury occurs.