BASEBALL GAME — STRUCK BY “WILD PITCH” — BRYSON V. COASTAL PLAIN LEAGUE
March 30, 2014
The plaintiff went to a baseball game. Prior to the start of the game, he was standing near a fence near the “bullpen.” In the bullpen, a pitcher was throwing balls to a catcher. The pitcher threw a “wild pitch” (or a bad pitch) that went astray and struck the plaintiff in the face. The plaintiff sued the owner and operator of the park, apparently alleging that the park should have had other netting of fencing around the bullpen.
The lower court granted summary judgment for the defendants, and on July 17, 2012, the Court of Appeals in Bryson v. Coastal Plain League affirmed.
The court cited from older North carolina law holding that (a) a ballpark simply has to provide seats protected by netting and (b) a ballpark merely has to provide netting to the seats behind home plate. The court held that the ballpark fulfilled this duty, even though it did not have netting or fencing around the bullpen.
The plaintiff argued that this case was distinguishable from the prior cases because the pitch at issue here came from the bullpen, and not during a game. The court rejected this argument. The court also rejected an argument that this case presented an “extraordinary hazard” and should be treated differently. The opinion also contains the peculiar language that the operator of the ball park “owed no duty to Mr. Bryson”; presumably the court did not literally mean this, but only meant that the duty was fulfilled by providing some seats with netting.
There have been many cases involving sports fans and participants being struck by e.g. soccer balls and golf balls. These tend to raise very complicated issues. A case from 2008 allowed a plaintiff’s case to proceed where she was struck by a soccer ball.