On April 8, 2019, Jennifer Harughty, a lifelong Houston Astros fan, filed a lawsuit against the Astros for an incident that occurred July 8, 2018. On July 8, 2018, Harughty was seated in the stands behind third base with her family, enjoying a game between the Astros and the White Sox.
Suddenly, during a break in play, the Astros’ mascot, Orbit, emerged onto the field with high-powered t-shirt cannon. Orbit then began launching t-shirts, at high speeds, into the stands behind third base. At one point, Orbit launched at t-shirt at Harughty from close range that smashed into her hand and fractured her finger and causing severe injury. According to Harughty, “[a]t first I was like, ‘Oh gosh, that really hurt.’ But it was a t-shirt, surely it didn’t do any damage. I’m sure it’s jammed.” However, “[a]s the rest of the game went on, I told my husband, ‘I think something’s really wrong with it.’”
Following the game, Harughty went to the emergency room where she was told that her finger “was severely fractured and would require surgery to reconstruct it.” Four days after the incident, Harughty underwent surgery to place two screws in the finger; however, even after surgery and months of physical therapy Harughty continued to “suffer pain, swelling, and loss of range of motion.” Later, Harughty underwent a second surgery “to increase the possibility of Harughty regaining some use of her finger,” but doctors told Harughty that she may never regain full use of her finger.
Harughty’s lawsuit alleges that the Astros were negligent for failing to use reasonable care in firing the t-shirt cannon, failing to provide warnings about the possible harm from the cannon, failing to properly supervise staff, and failing to minimize or eliminate the danger from the t-shirt cannon. In response, the Astros have said, “[t]he Astros are aware of the lawsuit with allegations regarding Orbit’s t-shirt launcher. We do not agree with the allegations. The Astros will continue to use fan popular t-shirt launchers during games.”
Allegedly, the two surgeries have cost Harughty over $15,000 in medical bills. Initially, Harughty went to the Astros asking for compensation, but her lawyer said the team refused to provide any help. “It was a life-changing event that I think if it happened to anybody else … they would feel the same way,” Harughty said. “It has nothing to do with the Astros.”