Spectator hit by a foul ball during a Cleveland Indians game seek damages from the team

We are pleased to announce that a case in which we have been involved for almost 3 years was decided in our client’s favor by the Ohio Supreme Court on May 4:  a spectator hit by a foul ball during a Cleveland Indians game can seek damages from the team. We faced a long and hotly contested appeal from the Eighth District Court of Appeals deciding that our client was entitled to a trial on his claims.

Keith Rawlins of Rochester, New York, was blinded in one eye after a foul ball hit him during a July 2012 home game against the Baltimore Orioles in the ninth inning. New York counsel Paul Keneally and our firm argued his injury was the team’s fault because stadium ushers made him leave his seat for post-game fireworks. There are other witnesses as well that experienced this at the game that night. Unfortunately Mr. Rawlins was in the aisle when a line drive struck him in the face and caused him to become blind in his eye.

The vision loss forced Rawlins from his work as a tool and die maker, rendering him destitute. The Indians contacted him in the hospital and offered him a family four-pack of tickets for his trouble.  They rejected his claim otherwise, citing a decades-old baseball rule that a spectator assumes the risk of injury in the ballpark and has a duty to remain alert for his own safety.

“No duty is owed with respect to spectators struck by foul balls during the normal course of a game, despite in-game instructions or distractions,” contended the Indians in their appellate pleadings.

Cuyahoga County’s Court of Common Pleas initially agreed with the Indians, but the Eighth District Court of Appeals reversed the trial court last November, finding that requiring spectators to leave their seats for “a non-emergency or unjustified reason” created a “genuine issue of material fact.”

The Indians appealed that decision to the Ohio Supreme Court, which upheld the Eighth District’s decision in a 4-3 vote.