Baseball is said to be ingrained in American culture, a national pastime with which everyone is familiar, and of the utmost importance to our society. Its simplicity from the 1800s has been replaced with modern stadia, technological advancements and entertainment options within the ballparks, potential distractions, as well as bigger, faster, and more powerful participants. Fans are no longer only concerned with the wins/losses of their favorite club, but proximity to favorite players and the overall entertainment experience at the major and minor league levels. Projectiles leaving the field of play at baseball games present a concern for both fanatical and casual spectators, especially when deciding at which price level seat one should sit. Although historical case law has referenced the elements of negligence, assumption of risk, as well as risk inherent in the game (and of common knowledge), the limited duty (baseball) rule defines the duty of care owed to spectators at baseball games. Beyond the traditional tort legal theories of negligence and intentional tort case law, sport has intensified its own set of legal theories. As it further relates to sport, certain courts have fashioned a legal theory of defining the duty requiring stadiums to protect spectators from projectiles leaving the field of play. The legal theory is referred to as the limited duty rule (or baseball rule). The purpose of this study was to examine the evolution of the limited duty (baseball) rule, the characteristics of injured parties in legal cases involving projectiles leaving the field of play, as well as the relationship between which factors contributed to a winning or losing decision in a court of law utilizing qualitative (document analysis) and quantitative (logistic regression analysis) methods. Results describe case characteristics, victim demographics, and present log odds regarding liability cases involving injuries to spectators caused by projectiles leaving the field of play at baseball games. Following the elimination of nine remanded cases, the sub-sample (n = 92) was analyzed utilizing crosstabs and regression analysis. Seventy-seven adults (83.70%) are involved in litigation, yet only win 10.4% of the time compared to the rate of 46.7% of their 15 minor counterparts (16.30%). Males are represented by a frequency of 38, while 54 females make up 58.70% of the sub-sample. Similarly, the outcome was in favor of males and females eight and seven times, respectively, at comparable rates of 18.4% and 14.8%. The highest number of favorable outcomes for the plaintiff, seven out of 15 winning cases (46.7%), are included in the category, 1950-1999. The overall percentage of cases won in that era was 7 out of 38 cases (18.4%). When the limited duty (baseball) rule was not explicitly referenced, outcomes were in the plaintiffs favor 18.2% of the time, as compared to 6.7% when the legal theory was mentioned. Incidents occurring at MiLB/Independent Professional baseball games only found in favor of the plaintiff on two of 37 occasions (5.4%), whereas plaintiffs injured at MLB games were victorious in seven of 27 instances (25.9%). Similar rates of success for in-game vs. pre-game incidents, at 16.7% versus 18.2% respectively, were reported. Individuals sitting in unprotected seating bring forth the most lawsuits (59), but were only successful three times (5.1%). However, protected/contested seating incidents found in favor of the plaintiff on 5 of 11 occasions (45.5%), and individuals injured on the concourse/concession/entertainment areas were victorious four of 14 times (28.6%). Injuries caused by 'other' projectiles and/or events (possibly risks not inherent in the game of baseball) had a better chance of winning; three of seven cases were in favor of the plaintiff (42.9%). This particular winning percentage was greater compared to the 75 lawsuits involving injuries suffered by batted balls (14.7%) or thrown baseballs (10%). Distractions, or blocked sightlines, were only referenced on eight occasions and were successful in only one case (12.5%). Injuries were most likely to occur to the victim's head/face/neck region (57) and to be serious in nature (61). The outcome was in the plaintiff's favor in 14 of 57 instances (24.6%) when head/face/neck injuries were involved and in 13 of 61 when involving an injury categorized as serious. In only one instance, was the outcome in favor of the plaintiff for an injury classified as minor/unknown. In the sole case involving a fatality, when the minor boy died due to injuries sustained at the ballpark (injury classified as critical), the outcome was returned in favor of the victim. Theory referenced (p = .031), 1950-1999 - injury date (p = .031), MLB - level of play (p = .045), protected - seat location (p = .006), and concourse - seat location (p = .005) were found to be statistically significant related to the outcome of court decisions (won or lost).'
Limited Duty Rule, Baseball Rule, Baseball, Risk Management, Duty of Care, Foul Ball, Projectile, Spectator, Fan, Stadium
Physical Education, Sports and Exercise Science
Level of Degree
Health, Exercise, and Sports Sciences
Clement, Dr. Annie J.D.
First Committee Member (Chair)
Seidler, Dr. Todd
Second Committee Member
Barnes, Dr. John
Third Committee Member
Fried, Gil Esq.
Fourth Committee Member
Hushman, Dr. Glenn
Manning, R. Douglas. "PLAYING HARDBALL: AN ANALYSIS OF COURT DECISIONS INVOLVING THE LIMITED DUTY (BASEBALL) RULE." (2013). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/educ_hess_etds/30