The SODA Blog

The official blog of the Sportsplex Operators & Developers Association

The Baseball Rule Is Alive and Well In New York !

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Baseball_RuleBaseball_RuleBaseball_Rule   As was the death of Mark Twain, the demise of the baseball

rule has been exaggerated, at least in New York. The

baseball rule, also known as the limited duty of care, is a

unique legal duty. The duty of care owed by the owners and

operators of a baseball facility is to provide protective screening

in the area behind home plate. The area behind home plate

is purportedly the area where the danger of being struck by an

errant baseball, bat or even promotional items is the greatest.

If adequate protection is provided to those spectators who

want to watch the game from behind screening, the owners

and operators cannot be held liable to injured spectators.

Recently, Idaho and Missouri courts made headlines when

they rejected the baseball rule and embraced a “reasonable

care” standard instead. Other states, such as New Jersey

and Colorado, have enacted baseball-specific liability statutes.

New York, however, recently reinforced its adherence

to the baseball rule in an unusual case. In Cocco v. City of

New York (2014 N.Y. Slip Op 1395), the Appellate Division,

First Department affirmed summary judgment on behalf of

defendants in a case that involved a plaintiff who was struck

in the face by an errant baseball while walking on a city sidewalk

next to a school. The baseball came from a schoolyard

and ball field adjacent to the sidewalk. The schoolyard was

owned and maintained by the defendants.

Citing the baseball rule, the Appellate Division, First Department

held that the defendants had established their prima facie

entitlement to judgment as a matter of law because they

neither owed nor violated a duty of care owed to the plaintiff.

Even accepting the plaintiff’s allegations and testimony as

true, the defendants, as “the proprietor[s] of a ball park need

only provide screening for the area of the field behind home

plate where the danger of being struck by a ball is the greatest”

Akins v. Glens Falls City School Dist., 53 N.Y.2d 325, 330

(1981). See Haymon v. Pettit, 9 N.Y.3d 324 [2007]; Roberts v.

Boys &Girls Republic, Inc., 51 A.D.3d 246, 247-8 (1st Dep’t

2008), affd 10 N.Y.2d 889 (2008). It was of no moment that

the plaintiff was a passerby and not a spectator, or that the

plaintiff was on a city sidewalk when she was struck. Since

the requisite protection was provided, the duty of care was

satisfied and defendants could not be held liable.

While the baseball rule may be drawing its last breath in

some jurisdictions, the Cocco case demonstrates it is still

alive and well in New York.

Contact

Carla Varriale: 646-747-5115 or carla.varriale@hrrvlaw.com

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