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Kansas City Royals Face Hot Dog Liability

Sometimes we like to take a break from our core topics on this blog and bring you other law-related news of interest. 

In a case being watched closely by sports-law experts and t-shirt-cannon enthusiasts around the country, the Kansas City Royals may be on the brink of making new law on the issue of the liability of professional sports teams for injuries incurred by fans attending games.

News reports on the case are here and here. The basic facts are as follows:

While attending a game in September 2009, a fan was struck in the eye by a foil-wrapped hot dog thrown into the stands by the Royals's mascot, Sluggerrr. The resulting eye injury required the fan to undergo two surgical procedures and is alleged to have permanently impaired his vision. He sued for damages in excess of $20,000. After a trial in Jackson County, Missouri, the jury found for the Royals, but the Missouri court of appeals overturned that verdict, and the case is now on appeal to the Missouri supreme court.

Under a long-standing rule, professional sports teams are generally protected from liability for injuries incurred by fans as a result of things that happen in connection with the game itself. So, for example, fans cannot sue if they are struck by a foul ball, a broken bat, or an errant hockey puck. Fans are deemed to have assumed these inherent risks in attending the game.

But the law has never addressed whether that liability protection extends to injuries incurred as a result of other things happening at the ballpark during the game, such as mascot antics and other attempts to entertain the crowd during lulls in the action. So the outcome in this case is not clear. And if the court rules in favor of the fan, it could mean the end of free stuff raining into the stands and a new era of mascot restraint for professional sports teams nationwide.


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Don Berner, the Labor Law, OSHA, & Immigration Law Guy
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Boyd Byers, the General Employment Law Guy
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Jason Lacey, the Employee Benefits Guy
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