Your 1st trip to the ballpark is supposed to be filled with bright sunshine, mouthwatering hotdogs and the satisfying sound of the crack of the bat.
But for one 6-year-old Los Angeles Angels fan who suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of an errant toss, America’s national pastime is one he might like to forget.
Let’s take a look at what happened and who can be held liable when a fan is injured at a baseball stadium.
On September 15, 2019, 6-year-old Bryson Galaz attended a Los Angeles Angels baseball game with his father. They arrived an hour before the game was scheduled to begin to get autographs and watch the players warm-up.
As Bryson and his father were headed toward the 1st row of Angel Stadium, Bryson was struck on the side of the head by an errant throw made by Los Angeles Angels pitcher Keynan Middleton who was warming up on the field.
Bryson was rushed to the emergency room in critical condition and then sent to the children’s hospital, where he remained for 3 days.
In the 2 years following the incident, Bryson has had difficulty paying attention and navigating social interactions. Medical exams show abnormal brain activity, which raises concerns about his long-term development.
“For 3 days, we didn’t know if my son was going to live or die,” Bryson’s mother, Beatrice Galaz, said in a statement. “We’re grateful that he pulled through, but since that day he has struggled in school. He’s simply not the same.”
Personal injury lawsuit filed against the Los Angeles Angels
On April 1, 2022, Beatrice Galaz filed a personal injury lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court against the Los Angeles Angels.
The lawsuit is based on negligence and alleges that the Angels should have installed more netting along the side of the field and that players shouldn’t have been throwing balls during warm-ups in areas where spectators could be struck, especially when the team encouraged fans to arrive early to watch warm-ups.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for medical costs and loss of future earnings.
Can a baseball team be held liable for a fan’s injury?
Bryson Galaz isn’t the 1st person to suffer an injury in a California ballpark. On August 25, 2018, 79-year-old Linda Goldbloom was killed after being struck by a foul ball at a Los Angeles Dodgers game. The death was the 1st foul-ball death at a major league stadium since May 16, 1970, when another Dodger fan, Alan Fish, was killed while watching the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the San Francisco Giants.
Traditionally, baseball teams have escaped liability by raising the so-called “baseball rule” defense.
The baseball rule is a 100-year-old law that shields baseball teams from liability if they provide at least some screened seats for fans who desire them.
The reasoning behind the law is that it’s considered common knowledge that baseballs are likely to be thrown or batted outside the lines of the diamond during a baseball game. As a result, due care does not require ALL of the spectators to be screened in. Rather, teams need only provide screened seats for those fans who want them.
The baseball rule is state-specific in that the specific number of screened seats required in order to be shielded from liability varies from state to state, as do the exceptions. What’s more, not all states have adopted the law (although the majority of states have, including California).
Despite the existence of the baseball rule, spectators in some states have been able to recover damages. For example, the parents of a 6-year-old girl reached a settlement in 2017 with the Atlanta Braves after the child was struck by a foul ball that caused a traumatic brain injury.
Kyle Scott, the attorney representing the Galaz family, doesn’t believe the baseball rule should apply to Bryson’s case.
“This is not a foul ball,” Kyle said. “It’s not a thrown bat. This is not a risk inherent to the sport of baseball. The game is not going on.”
The Galaz family’s attorney believes the players could have simply stood in a different formation to avoid the completely foreseeable risk of a ball being thrown into the stands.