Friday, December 19, 2008

Interesting Soccer and Law Question

Sports Law Blog has a post about a recently decided case in North Carolina, in which the North Carolina Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a case back to he trial court to consider on the merits of the case whether a spectator at a soccer event can claim a negligence cause of action against the owner of the field for injuries sustained when a ball struck her in the head during warm-ups.

For those of you not schooled in law, and even those who are, may not know that in general a fan hit by a baseball at a baseball game generally will not be able to maintain a suit for damages. However, that rule doesn't necessarily apply to soccer games.

While the appeals court sent this back down to the trial court for a trail on the merits of the case, I have a hard time seeing how the defendant's win at trial. I suspect a settlement will occur.

Interesting, the opinion spends a lot of time talking about how baseball owners can't held liable for injuries and then say soccer stadium owners don't get teh same protection. The injury occured during warm ups, and one of the cases cited in the opinion clearly state that warm-ups are part of the game and if owners allow fans to watch warm-ups they are subject to the risk.

What may cause this case to be a win for the plaintiffs is the lack of netting at the Cary, NC stadium. In baseball stadia, you often see netting near the home plate area to protect against foul balls, hit sharply behing homeplate which deny most fans the ability to react to protect themselves. But that same netting is not found further out long the first and third base paths and certainly not in outfield seating, the theory being that you can react. The law seems to indicate that netting at some parts of the field will absolve the owner from liability. I don't know of any soccer specific stadium which has netting behind the goals regularly. Some stadia, like Crew Stadium in Columbus, and Pizza Hut Park, being multi-use facilities, often have stages behind one goal with netting, but the only times I have seen the netting up is when a work crew is setting up for a concert or other event or if there is equipment on the stage.

Here is an interestin question, what will happen to the owners of soccer fields in North Carolina for youth games, where there are not only no stands, but certainly no netting. Could they be held liable? Seems pretty foolish, right?

Chalk this one up to the litigiousness of our society.

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