At least the Yankees won something. As the team prepares to watch the Astros play the Dodgers in the World Series, its ownership can take solace in winning a court challenge to a century-old legal doctrine that prevents fans from suing when they get hit with foul balls or broken bats.
A state appeals court in Manhattan ruled against Andrew Zlotnick, a New York private equity fund lawyer who was badly injured by a 2011 foul ball at Yankee Stadium. Zlotnick and other baseball safety advocates contend the “Baseball Rule”, which says people take on the risk of injury at a ballgame, is unfair and outdated.
Zlotnick called Tuesday’s ruling “very disappointing.” He said he’ll discuss the case with his lawyer before deciding whether to appeal to the state’s highest court.
According to the Baseball Rule, ballpark owners need only provide screening behind home plate, with enough room for fans who choose to sit there. Anyone outside the screened area – along the baselines, behind the dugout or in the outfield – is considered to have assumed the risk of injury from foul balls, errant throws and broken bats, Roger Abrams, an expert on sports law at Northeastern University School of Law, said earlier this month.
In a four-paragraph ruling, the appeals court panel applied the rule and rejected Zlotnick’s argument that it shouldn’t apply because his view of the game was blocked by umbrellas.
Ballpark safety was the subject of increased public attention after a line-drive foul at Yankee Stadium in September sent a toddler to the hospital. The Yankees said they will “significantly expand” netting that currently protects fans behind the plate and along parts of the foul lines on either side of the field.
The Yankees lost to the Astros 4-0 on Oct. 21 in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.
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