Sports activities are fraught with risks—mostly for participants. Occasionally, however, spectators are injured.
Golf courses, baseball parks, hockey arenas and auto race tracks appear to present the greatest risk of personally injury to spectators. Spectator injuries in these sports often are very serious.
Historically, injured spectators usually were denied compensation. The legal rules applicable to these matters vary somewhat from one state to another, and they have evolved over time. The effect, however, is substantially the same. Obtaining compensation for personal injuries is still very difficult.
An Arizona Court of Appeals decision further clarified the responsibility of sporting event sponsors to injured spectators.
The Arizona case was brought by a woman injured while attending an Arizona State University baseball game. Her son played for ASU's opponent on the day she was a spectator.
The woman sat with her husband in an area along the first-base line that was not screened to deflect errant balls. The ASU baseball stadium was designed, as most baseball parks are, to protect only those spectators who sit in the most hazardous seats—the ones behind home plate. Screened backstops prevent foul balls from striking spectators who sit in a fan-shaped pattern behind home plate.
This woman was struck in the head by a foul ball that ricocheted off a pole at the edge of the backstop: She was injured seriously.
The Arizona Court of Appeals determined that ASU had done as much as reasonably could be expected to protect spectators. The court seemed to rely on the fact that the University has provided protection for those who sat in the high-risk seats. Furthermore, ASU indicated it had made available a certain number of these protected seats for those who specifically requested them. The injured woman had not made such a request.
If you are attending a sporting event that has the potential for spectator injury, understand the risk you assume. If you want added protection from an accident injury, discuss your concerns with a representative of the sponsor.
In any event, attend to your own safety. Never assume this has been done for you.