In an interesting ruling, the Missouri Supreme Court held yesterday that a spectator at a Kansas City Royals baseball game could get a new trial on a lawsuit against the team for an injury he suffered at a game in 2009. According to the allegations in the case, the fan was hit in the eye by a wrapped hot dog thrown into the stands by the Royals’ mascot, Sluggerrr. The lawsuit further alleges that the incident caused the fan to experience a detached retina and required him to undergo two surgeries to try to repair the damage.
In Missouri, as in many other states, the “baseball rule” applies to fans who go to a professional sports event. Teams are protected from claims for injuries arising from the inherent risks involved in watching the event in person — like the possibility that a foul tip might come your way. The Missouri Supreme Court said, however, that a hot dog thrown by a mascot is not an inherent risk — and thus the “baseball rule” doesn’t apply.
Some legal observers say the decision might cause sports teams to reassess their use of mascots, like Sluggerrr. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? I despise lame, furry, meaningless mascots and deeply regret how they have assumed increasingly prominent roles in virtually every sporting venue. When I was a kid, the organist would play between innings at a ball game, and you could have a conversation and eat some peanuts; now every spare moment is cause for loud music, stupid contests, and idiotic mascots firing cheap t-shirts into the stands and engaging in other antics. If the Missouri Supreme Court’s decision about Sluggerrr and his hot dog have brought that appalling era to a close, the judicial system has done a very good thing for society.