If you’ve ever gone to a youth baseball game, you know that thanks to the players’ relative lack of muscle control compared with major leaguers, a ball or bat can come flying from anywhere at anytime, headed any place.
If you don’t know this, a Pennsylvania appeals court, one step down from its state supreme court, joined a lower court in legally codifying that you should. It upheld a previous dismissal of a lawsuit filed by an adult who got hit by a stray baseball thrown by a child player.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled [Dec. 31] that an Upper Saucon Township woman cannot sue an Allentown baseball academy after an errant throw during a youth game struck her in the head.
Tracy DeBrigida had just set her family down on a blanket behind the first base line to watch her son’s game July 11, 2009, when a baseball struck her on the right side of the face, causing serious injuries, according to court documents.
Two years later, she and her husband, John DeBrigida, filed a lawsuit against the Lehigh Valley Baseball Academy and the Lehigh Valley Stealth Baseball Team. The two organizations were hosting a baseball tournament at a local elementary school, according to court documents. …
Despite the unique elements of the case, the Superior Court agreed the DeBrigidas did not have grounds to pursue their lawsuit. Foul balls and bad throws are common knowledge in baseball, and fans must exercise care to protect themselves as a result, the appeals court ruled.
As of yet, DeBrigida and her attorney have issued no comment, so there’s no word whether she will request Pennsylvania’s supreme court hear her case. Her chances aren’t good, in that with few exceptions, courts have ruled that at all levels of baseball, spectators assume the risk of getting hit with a ball or bat that goes astray (assuming it wasn’t intentionally thrown at them).
For example, in 2012, a Manchester, N.J., woman sued a Little League catcher who, at age 11, overshot his pitcher during warmups in an enclosed bullpen, sending the ball over the fence and hitting her in the face. According to a Facebook page supporting the catcher, Matthew Migliaccio, depositions just began in fall 2013, so the case is still very active. In that case, the plaintiff, Elizabeth Lloyd, is suing the player, not the league, as DeBrigida did.
You might ask, you mean someone can sue a preteen baseball player? And I would answer, yes, someone can. In 1997, an appeals court in Connecticut reversed the dismissal of a lawsuit against Johnny Lupoli of Wallingford, saying a lower court was wrong when it said the 9-year-old boy legally could not be served papers by a woman who said his errant warmup throw hit her in the face. The lawsuit (to which Johnny’s league was latter added as a defendant) was settled, with terms undisclosed but good enough for Johnny’s lawyer to be “ecstatic” with them, in August 2000.