Sports events are full of accidents waiting to happen. Not only can athletes harm themselves and other players during a game, but the stands are rife with alcohol-drinking fans. In 1974, for example, the Cleveland Indians promoted their game with the Texas Rangers with Ten Cent Beer Night, an event that went down in history. The stadium offered 12 U.S. fluid ounces of 3.2% beer for just 10 cents a cup, with a limit of 6 cups per purchase. However, there was no limit on the number of purchases each individual could make. During the event, the fans became increasingly intoxicated and eventually rioted. A large number of them charged onto the field with knives, chains, and pieces of stadium seats, while other hurled objects from the stands. No one was killed, but many players, officials, and sports enthusiasts were injured.
While you would be hard-pressed to find 10-cent beer in modern stadiums, alcohol is still a readily available substance. Fans inclined to violence or disruptive behavior after drinking might cause problems at any sporting event. If you’re a spectator in a stadium, you’re protected by law from another individual’s attack, just as you would be on the street. For instance, if a supporter of the opposing team throws a punch at you, you can press charges against the fan for any injuries you get from that hit. There are several things you need to know beforehand:
- Who caused your injuries?
- How serious are those injuries?
- Did you start the fight?
- Do you have any evidence?
If you provoked the fight, your case might be weakened by your own liability in the accident. However, by not throwing the punch first, you are more likely to have a stronger personal injury case.
If you slipped and fell in a sports facility, you may be able to charge the owner of the location with negligence. This case would be considered valid under premises liability laws if you could prove the owner was actually negligent. For instance, if the proprietor never hired anyone to maintenance the bathrooms, but a toilet has been overflowing for the duration of the game, someone who slipped on the wet bathroom floor would have good cause to sue. Likewise, let’s say the stadium owner knew several of his seats were getting rusty. If he never called to repair or replace the chairs, he would be liable if any people were seriously harmed by broken or falling seats.
A foul ball or stray hockey puck is not uncommon at a sporting event. They can also cause a lot of damage. Hockey pucks can hit speeds of up to 105 MPH, and baseballs have been clocked at 98 MPH. Brittanie Nichole Cecil was the only fan to be killed in 100 years of the National Hockey League’s history. The 13-year-old girl was struck in the temple by a deflected puck and later died of her injury. Following her death, the NHL implemented a mandatory safety netting above the glass in all stadiums, but for amateur games, who is liable if another similar injury occurs?
Many sporting event tickets have a disclaimer paragraph explaining that any damage to fans in the stadium is not the responsibility of the owner. However, it is the owner’s responsibility to ensure this doesn’t happen. Baseball fields typically have a net just behind home plate in order to prevent foul balls from striking unprepared spectators in the nearby stands. Fans in the outfield, on the other hand, have a few seconds to react to any ball headed in their direction. If you were hurt by a ball or puck you could have reasonably avoided, you might not have a good case against the stadium owner.
People who play sports, both professionally and in amateur activities, assume the risk that they might be injured during the game. If you break an arm during rugby, for example, you can’t sue your fellow athletes or the stadium or field owner for damages. According to a 2011 study, top-level rugby events have an average of 221 tackles per game. By agreeing to participate in the sport, you indicate an understanding of the dangers.
In the above example, several players were battered during Ten-Cent Beer Night. If they had determined who injured them, the athletes could have pursued an intentional tort lawsuit against the perpetrator. While sports enthusiasts can be boisterous, an athlete isn’t expected to take abuse from other players or people outside the game itself.
Damage caused by faulty sports gear is also something you could seek compensation for. While a hockey player could expect to be bruised during a game, he wouldn’t assume his helmet would break on impact once it hit the glass. The protective equipment athletes use should work to keep the player relatively safe. If it is defective, the athlete then has a reason to pursue a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer.
If you were harmed at a sporting event, give us a call. Our Schuylkill personal injury attorneys have more than five decades of experience protecting the rights of victims. Contact us at (888) 268-0023 or fill out our online form with your case details today. We look forward to working for you.