Spectator Injuries at Sporting Events
Stadiums, arenas and racetracks are public venues and in many ways owners and managers are held to the same standards of care as storeowners and other proprietors. However, there are some differences. In many cases, spectator sports present certain special hazards that can only be mitigated so much before adversely affecting the spectator experience. In these cases, there may be some additional challenges for injured spectators to overcome.
Obviously, a stadium manager would likely be liable for injuries sustained by a patron due to a loose rail, slippery floor or unlighted stairway. However, certain other risks are unique to spectator sports. This was vividly illustrated by last year’s crash at the Daytona 500 that injured more than 28 spectators. Other common examples include the following:
- Foul balls and baseball games
- Hooked or sliced balls in golf tournaments
- Airborne pucks in hockey
In many cases, spectators injured by one of these instrumentalities have been precluded from recovering for their injuries due to the fact that these risks have been considered open and obvious and that the spectator is assuming such a risk by attending the game. This has often been called the “baseball rule” or the “no duty rule” and has existed in many jurisdictions for years.
While the “baseball rule” can present a significant initial challenge for injured spectators, there may be exceptions developing. If the conduct or practices of the management or another involved party tends to create dangers beyond what is open and obvious or if it inhibits the spectator’s ability to be attentive to his or her own safety, liability may still be with management. That is why a Florida premises liability attorney confronted with the case of an injured spectator should closely review both the facts of the case and the applicable legal precedent.