Man Hit By Hot Dog Sues Baseball Team, As He Should

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royalsPhoto: Via CS Monitor.
Don't laugh. In September 2009, a man named John Coomer was enjoying a Kansas City Royals game from the stands of the Kauffman Stadium when suddenly something struck him in the eye. It wasn't a baseball, but a hot dog, foil-wrapped and slung over a shoulder by the team's lion mascot, Sluggerrr. This hot dog had no malice. Sluggerrr's been tossing wieners to fans since 2000. The trauma of being hit in the eye with a hot dog, however, forced Coomer to undergo two surgeries: one to fix a detached retina and the other to remove a cataract and implant an artificial lens.

As one might expect, Coomer filed a lawsuit against the team. Coomer paid roughly $4,800 in medical costs. His lawsuit seeks an award "over $20,000."

When the case was first heard two years ago, jurors sided with the Royals. This was due to the oft-cited "baseball rule," a legal standard that generally shields teams and stadium owners from being held liable if a fan is struck by a ball. But an appeals court overturned that decision in January, ruling that fans might assume a reasonable amount of risk from being hit by a foul ball at a game, but not a hot dog.

The Missouri Supreme Court is weighing exactly whether a mascot — or, for that matter, anyone else employed by a team besides its players — can be held responsible for inadvertent injuries to fans. According to the Associate Press, a 1997 California case set a legal precedent when the court ruled that mascots were not an essential part of a game. If the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments last month, sides with the Royals, that standard could be reversed and lead to fewer lawsuits of this kind.

Should fans assume an inherent risk of being hit with foodstuffs at sporting events? Maybe. But to what end? We shouldn't be expected to just man up if a mascot smacks us in the solar plexus with a beer bottle, right? Discuss. (CS Monitor)