Pirates Settle in Foul-Ball Suit, with Net Installer as Final Defendant
The Pittsburgh Pirates have reached a confidential settlement with a woman struck by a foul ball at the Pirates’ PNC Park. Now, a jury trial will go forth under a new state court judge to determine the liability of the installer behind the allegedly defective safety net behind home plate.
As we have previously reported, the suit arises from an incident that occurred in April of 2015, when a foul ball hit the netting behind home plate, and the netting deflected or stretched far enough to strike plaintiff Wendy Camlin in the head as she walked back to her front-row seat. In August of 2018, Camlin removed the MLB as a party to the suit, and the Pittsburgh Pirates joined Promats to the suit, alleging that the installer of the net was responsible for any net deficiencies.
Promats stirred up controversy by alleging that Judge Della Vecchia participated in unethical ex parte communications with Mark Gordon, one of Camlin’s attorneys, in an effort to settle the case. The company filed a motion requesting the case be assigned a new judge.
Judge Christine Ward, sitting as the administrative judge for the court, agreed to assign a new judge—but not based on Promats’ accusations of impropriety. Instead, she said that it is reasonable to assign a trial judge who did not oversee the case during settlement discussions to avoid any preconceptions or bias.
As the trial moves forward, tensions continue to rise. Promats is rejecting plaintiff’s accusations, instead arguing that the design of the park is at fault for putting fans so close to the net, and further pointing the finger at the PNC Park usher who allowed Camlin to walk inches from the net as the foul ball was thrown. The company contends that some of the symptoms Camlin is claiming–such as shoulder and neck pain, depression, anxiety, and headaches–were pre-existing rather than evidence of a disability.
Camlin, in contrast, alleges that the Promats was negligent in their net installation, stating that the installers were inexperienced and failed to sufficiently tighten the net to prevent injuries like hers from occurring.
The trial is expected to last 11 days, and the witnesses will include the net installers, Pirates team officials, Camlin’s family and former colleagues, the PNC Park usher who escorted Camlin to her seat, and competing experts in neuropsychology to testify about the extent of Camlin’s injuries and their likely causes.