Do hidden hazards within playing areas expose the host teams to liability? Playing right field for the New York Yankees on June 29, Dustin Fowler was in the first inning of his Major League Baseball debut when he ran into a wall in foul territory at Chicago's Guaranteed Rate Field, injuring his right knee. Fowler has sued the White Sox and the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority claiming they were negligent for not mitigating the injury risk posed by an unpadded metal electrical box attached to the low wall the player collided with.
The wall and railing above it are padded, but not the electrical box, according to the suit filed Friday in Cook County Circuit Court. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the suit alleges the defendants failed to adequately inspect the right field wall and the box, which was installed at knee-level “in a manner so as to create a hidden and undetectable hazard” to players. By failing to properly pad, guard or cover the exposed box, the defendants showed "an utter indifference to or conscious disregard" for Fowler’s safety. The defendants knew of this condition and had time to correct it, but did not, the suit argues.
Fowler did not return to action last season, and was traded in July to the Oakland A's. The lawsuit claims Fowler suffered "severe and permanent" internal and external injuries, as well as mental pain and anguish. It also contends that Fowler paid "large sums of money" toward medical care necessitated by his injury. Fowler, once a top-100 prospect, is seeking an unspecified amount in damages from the White Sox and the ISFA.