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Jury to Sort Out Loss of Eye at Baseball Game

BOISE, Idaho (CN) - A baseball club must head to trial to fight claims from a season ticketholder who was struck by a foul ball and lost his eye, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled.

Bud Rountree had attended the Boise Hawks match on Aug. 13, 2008, with his wife and two grandchildren. While standing in the only section of the single-A, minor-league stadium not protected by netting, a foul ball struck him in the eye, according to the ruling.

He lost his eye as a result and filed a lawsuit in Ada County, naming approximately 17 defendants, including team owner Boise Baseball.

In its bid for summary judgment, Boise Baseball said that it had complied with the Baseball Rule, which limits the duty of stadium operators to spectators hit by foul balls.

District Judge Darla Williamson refused to apply that rule, however, and also shot down the alternative argument concerning an "implied assumption of the risk."

The state Supreme Court affirmed Friday.

Idaho lawmakers are better suited than the courts to create a special rule, according to the ruling.

"Declining to adopt the baseball rule leaves policy formulation to the deliberative body that is better positioned to consider the pros and cons of the issue," Justice Jim Jones wrote for the court. "This decision is in keeping with those states whose legislatures have seen fit to adopt variations of the Baseball Rule. Our Legislature can create a similar rule if it chooses. However, no compelling public policy rationale exists for us to do so. Thus, we decline to adopt the Baseball Rule."

Implied assumption of risk is also not a valid defense in the state of Idaho, the appellate panel found, pointing to the 1985 decision Salinas v. Vierstra, in which the court held that "assumption of risk shall no longer be available as an absolute bar."

"Allowing an assumption of risk as an absolute bar is inconsistent with our comparative negligence system, whether the risks are inherent in an activity, or not," Jones wrote. "Moreover, cases involving primary implied assumption of the risk are 'readily handled' by comparative negligence principles; as in any case, fault will be assessed and liability apportioned, based on the actions of the parties. Whether a party participated in something inherently dangerous will simply inform the comparison, rather than wholly preclude it."

In the end, fault and liability are items that should be decided by a jury, according to the ruling.

"Here, whether watching baseball is inherently dangerous, and the degrees of fault to be apportioned to Rountree and Boise Baseball, are questions for the jury," Jones wrote. "Because comparative negligence can adroitly resolve these questions, there is no need for this court to disturb its holding in Salinas: assumption of the risk - whether primary or secondary - shall not act as a defense."

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