MLB, Chicago Cubs Ask Judge to Toss Fan’s Foul Ball Blindness Suit
The Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball moved to dismiss a negligence suit on December 15, 2017 before a Cook County Circuit Court, arguing that the Illinois Baseball Facility Liability Act bars the plaintiff’s claims.
John “Jay” Loos sued the Cubs and MLB in October, claiming they were negligent for failing to install enough netting behind home plate. Loos claimed the foul ball hit by a Pittsburgh Pirates player on August 29 at Chicago’s Wrigley Field not only left him blind in one eye, but after many reconstructive surgeries to repair the broken facial bones, the vision in his other eye is also at risk. He was sitting along the first base line with his two sons and daughter. He also alleged that the MLB voluntarily undertook a duty to protect him and other fans when it made recommendations in 2015 concerning ballpark netting. The MLB said those recommendations were entirely too general to establish the organization owed Loos a legal duty.
The defendants also contended no exceptions to the Baseball Act applied — Loos’ injury was not the result of willful and wanton conduct, or from defective netting. They argued that Loos chose to sit in an area without netting in front of him. The MLB countered that its relationship with Loos was too remote as it did not own or operate Wrigley Field.
Loos played baseball in high school and said he knows there are “hot zones” in the stands where foul balls land, but was astonished all the same, explaining he “had no idea that you were subjected to such missiles and the rate of speed that a ball can come into the stands.” He urged all MLB teams to extend the protective netting to the length of the dugouts on each side of the field — a measure that he insists would have stopped the ball that hit him. He is seeking damages of at least $50,000.
On the Bernstein and Goff Show on 670 AM The Score, Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kennedy said the team would extend the safety nets by at least 30 feet for the 2018 season. Other teams have announced similar plans. However, the MLB has only recommended, but yet to mandate, extended nets. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin joined the call for increased safety, writing to the MLB Commissioner, “for the good of the sport and the safety of your fans: extend the nets.” Weeks after Loos was hit, a two-year-old girl was struck by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium and suffered bleeding on the brain. Reports show as many as 1,700 fans are injured at ballparks every year.
In a different suit concerning safety netting, the Ninth Circuit ruled fans lacked standing to seek an order requiring more netting, pointing to the MLB’s evidence that the risk of injury is very slim.