OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – A federal class action demands that Major League Baseball put up nets all the way to the outfield foul poles to protect fans from injuries from balls and broken bats.
Gail Payne’s 53-page lawsuit is replete with statistics, among them, that 1,750 fans are injured every year by “wayward baseballs” – “more often than a batter is hit by a pitch.”
Payne calls herself “a devout fan” of the Oakland A’s, but says she feared for her safety and the safety of her husband and daughter when they sat along the first base in the A’s stadium.
She wants Major League Baseball ordered to extend protective netting all the way out to the outfield walls.
“In a typical MLB game, 35-40 batted balls fly into the stands,” the complaint states. “Baseballs have an average mass of 5.125 ounces, and a 90 miles per hour fastball can leave the bat at 100 miles per hour. The average professional batter’s swing impacts 4,145 pounds of force to the ball. Peak forces from such a ball can exceed 8,300 pounds – enough to stop a Mini Cooper in its tracks. It is thus a serious safety hazard when foul balls fly into a ballpark’s ‘Danger Zone’ (the unprotected area along the first and third base lines).”
Payne claims that every year fans suffer horrific and preventable injuries, such as blindness and skull fractures, from foul balls or shattered bats. Children are particularly at risk of concussions and brain hemorrhages, as their heads and brains are larger in proportion to their body, according to the complaint.
“The seats in the exposed areas just past the netting, along first and third base, between the foul poles, are often occupied by families because they are more affordable and/or protected seats are sold out,” the complaint states. “These seats are often occupied by young fans. … However, the area along the foul lines is by far the most dangerous area of the ballpark.”
Payne claims that “players admit they ask family members never to sit in unprotected seats.” She wants professional baseball ordered to retrofit all Major League and Minor League ballparks to expand protective netting from foul pole to foul pole by the beginning of the 2016-2017 season.
She also wants the leagues ordered to study spectator injuries and evaluate whether additional measures should be taken.
“MLB players – who know the risks of baseball better than anyone – have demanded since 2007 that safety netting at MLB fields be expanded to protect near the foul ball lines something that the commissioner failed to disclose to the public,” Payne’s attorney Steve Berman, with Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, said in a statement.
“The MLB currently generates $9 billion in revenue annually. We think that asking the league and commissioner to be responsible for increased netting and basic protection for the fans who fill the seats is the MLB’s duty to baseball’s most dedicated.”
Payne seeks an injunction ordering the protective measures, and damages for negligence, fraudulent concealment, unfair competition Law and consumer law violations.
The lawsuit cites numerous injuries and deaths in ballparks, including the June 2010 death of a 39-year-old mother sitting just past the dugout on the third-base line at a San Angelo Texas Colts game, who was killed by a foul ball.
Attempts to reach Major League Baseball for a comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.
More than 73 million fans have attended Major League games in each of the past 10 seasons, according to league figures.
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