Fan Files Lawsuit Demanding MLB Extend Safety Netting | Athletic Business

Fan Files Lawsuit Demanding MLB Extend Safety Netting

An Oakland Athletics season-ticket holder has filed a federal lawsuit seeking class-action status and greater protection for fans everywhere from flying bats and balls. The suit, filed Monday in the Northern District of California, wants MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to extend safety netting from foul pole to foul pole.

According to an Associated Press report, the lawsuit claims that the league has failed to provide its member clubs with consistent safety guidelines, and that it has failed to listen to the safety warnings of its own players. It faults MLB for allowing players to switch to maple bats, which shatter more easily than ash bats, and for allowing clubs to create more visual distractions for fans. It also says MLB has lagged behind other sports organizations such as the NHL and NASCAR in terms of fan protection, as well as its professional league counterpart in Japan, where safety netting is more widespread.

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The lawsuit categorizes fan injuries throughout baseball’s history, claiming 1,750 preventable injuries occur each year. It was filed on behalf of one fan in particular — Gail Payne, who has attended A’s games since 1968. It claims that three of four balls enter her section every game, and states, “She fears for her and her husband's safety and particularly for her daughter. She is constantly ducking and weaving to avoid getting hit by foul balls or shattered bats.”

Courts have long shielded MLB from liability in cases of injury resulting from flying objects.

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The commissioner’s office issued a statement in response to Monday’s lawsuit, saying that the league continues to discuss safety with clubs and that the MLB Players Association could be involved in those discussions. “Fan safety is our foremost goal for all those who choose to support our game by visiting our ballparks, and we always strive for that experience to be safe and fan-friendly,” the statement says. “Major League Baseball is in the process of re-evaluating all issues pertaining to fan safety, comfort and expectations.”

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