Every MLB ticket has a disclaimer printed on the back. It lets fans know that they assume the risks of getting hit by balls or broken bats. However, there are some gray areas in the gray matter involved, as in this case at a Pittsburgh Pirates game where inadequate netting was blamed for a fan being smacked in the head as she took her seat behind home plate. A Cleveland Indians fan was blinded by a foul ball, and sued because he said the usher made him move from his seat during active play in order to prepare the stands for post-game festivities. These fans ended up with devastating injuries because baseballs travel fast, as in 106 mph fast, at least if you are beaned by a ball thrown by record-holder Aroldis Chapman.
Sure, sure, you say. Flying baseballs and bats are dangerous. What you really need to ask is, just how fast can a tossed hot dog travel? And can you sue if you’re hit by one?
It is a little known danger that innocent fans can be hit by hot dogs. The “Hot Dog Toss” is one of many activities a team’s mascot may employ to keep fans engaged with the circus, er, baseball game. From Lowering The Bar, the funniest legal blog around, I learned of a report that a Missouri judge has refused to dismiss a claim against the Kansas City Royals by a man who alleges the Royals’ mascot, Sluggerrr, hit him with a hot dog in 2009.
From Kevin Underhill’s treatise of the case:
The plaintiff cited a California case in which one team’s mascot, a seven-foot-tall dinosaur, had poked a spectator with his tail, distracting him just when a foul ball happened to be coming his way. That court held the dinosaur-poking was not an integral part of the game, and plaintiff argued that neither is hot-dog flinging. Plaintiff also contended that if the defendant was right, then Sluggerrr would be free to fire hot dogs out of an air cannon “directly at someone’s ten-year-old daughter sitting in the first row.”
It took two juries to find Sluggerrr and the team not liable for the fan’s injuries. For more on this strange case, click here.