Tag Archives: baseball
San Francisco Giants Outfielder’s Concussion Lawsuit Raises Legal Questions About Stadium Liability – Again
By Eugene Egdorf, Senior Counsel, Shrader Associates
On April 24, 2018 San Francisco Giants’ outfielder Mac Williamson found himself tracking down a routine fly ball that was moving toward foul territory. Unfortunately for Williamson, he lost his balance, tripped over the bullpen mound, and crashed headfirst into the outfield wall. Williamson suffered serious concussion symptoms. Though he eventually returned to the field for 23 games, his season ended upon a diagnosis of post-concussion syndrome. Williamson never recovered, and was soon out of baseball, his career over. He has now brought a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court against China Basin Ballpark Company, the operator and owner of Oracle Park, home of the Giants.
Sports fans have long recognized that injuries are a part of the game. We collectively hold our breath when there is a hit over the middle on the gridiron, or a defender takes a hard charge under the basket, or when a shortstop has his legs taken out as a runner looks to break up a double play. But in recent years, an alarming trend is developing, where athletes suffer serious injuries not from a collision with another player, but due to the conditions of their stadiums or playing surfaces on which the games are played.
In December 2011 Houston Texans’ punter Brett Hartmann suffered a career-ending knee injury when his foot was caught in an exposed seam of Reliant Stadium’s turf tray system. In prior years, several players suffered significant injuries related to the Texans’ turf, prompting cries for a change. The author represented Hartmann, whose case eventually settled. While Hartmann’s suit was pending, Philadelphia Eagles’ linebacker DeMeco Ryans stepped in another seam and tore his Achilles’ tendon, ending his career. His lawsuit remains ongoing. The NFL utilized a different field when Houston hosted Super Bowl LI, and subsequently the tray system was replaced by an artificial playing surface.
More recently Reggie Bush was awarded $12.5 million by a St. Louis jury for a knee injury resulting from slipping on exposed concrete out of bounds close to the playing surface. Notably, there had been prior injuries related to the concrete, yet the stadium operators never remedied the danger.
Williamson’s is not the first such baseball player lawsuit. In 2018 Dustin Fowler, playing in the first inning of his major league debut for the New York Yankees in Chicago, collided with an unpadded metal electrical box. Fowler ruptured his patellar tendon and yes not returned to the diamond. He never even had the opportunity to bat a single time before his career was seemingly ended. His lawsuit remains ongoing after a judge refused to refer the case to arbitration.
At the time of Williamson’s injury, few teams had their bullpens in the playoffs area. Several other players had tripped over the bullpen mounds, though fortunately none had suffered major injuries. The Giants subsequently relocated the stadium bullpens to the outfield.
Premises claims are never easy, and certainly even less so for a professional athlete. Ryan’s lawsuit has bogged down because of the contested issue of the applicability of the players’ collective bargaining agreement and whether the case should proceed in arbitration. CBA’s often pose an insurmountable hurdle to players bringing lawsuits. But a ruling in Fowler’s lawsuit will certainly be cited by Williamson’s counsel. The federal judge in Chicago hearing the case ruled that the CBA did not preempt Fowler’s claims and he could proceed with his negligence theory in district court.
Nevertheless, CBBC will certainly raise a number of other defenses to Williamson’s claims. As in many premises claims, CBBC will … (To read the rest of the story, please subscribe to Concussion Litigation Reporter, in which this article appeared.)
ImPACT Applications, Inc., developer of the ImPACT® test and ImPACT Concussion Management Model, has announced a partnership with New York Schools Insurance Reciprocal (NYSIR), provider of property and casualty insurance programs for New York State public schools and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), to introduce “a comprehensive” Head Injury Prevention Program.
The Head Injury Prevention Program is designed to help subscriber school districts manage student athlete injuries and train faculty and staff to recognize, respond to and prevent school-sports-related concussions. NYSIR’s program utilizes ImPACT for neurocognitive baseline and post-injury concussion testing and to educate athletic directors, trainers, coaches, physical education instructors and school nurses on concussion management.
ImPACT testing and training is currently being phased in by NYSIR and by the end of February, NYSIR plans to have the Head Injury Prevention Program in every subscriber school district—over 350 New York public school districts altogether. School sports covered by NYSIR’s agreement with ImPACT will include football, basketball, diving, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, baseball, softball, cheerleading, field hockey, wrestling and alpine skiing.
“For 26 years,” notes NYSIR President Carleen Millsaps, “we have been a leading insurer of New York’s public schools. The ImPACT-NYSIR partnership is a giant leap forward in our endeavors to continually provide programs and services that protect our subscribers’ student athletes, and a positive step in the education of school officials and staff about the risks of sports related head injuries.”
“ImPACT is honored to partner with NYSIR in its Head Injury Protection Program,” says Michael Wahlster, Chief Executive Officer of ImPACT Applications. “The organization is leading a national trend where innovative insurers recognize the important role they can play in helping subscribers implement an end-to-end concussion management program.”
(What follows is an excerpt of a column written exclusively for Concussion Litigation Reporter by Jordan Kobritz, a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner as well as a Professor in the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland. To view the entire article, subscribe to CLR.)
San Diego Padres pitcher Alex Torres wasn’t trying to make a fashion statement, he was merely trying to protect his head. Torres, a 26-year old lefthander from Venezuela, became the first MLB pitcher to wear a protective cap in a game when he was summoned from the bullpen in the eighth inning of the June 21 game against the Dodgers.
The cap is arguably the ugliest item of clothing ever worn on a baseball diamond. A close second might be the softball-style uniforms worn by the Oakland A’s during the 1970’s at the insistence of their maverick owner, Charles Finley. The new headwear is fitted with energy-diffusing protective plates that create bulges around the sides and front of the cap. Not surprisingly, it’s also heavier than the normal baseball cap, adding seven ounces to the normal 3-4 ounce cap. It looks awkward, but its looks are no more awkward than its name: isoBLOX, manufactured by the company of the same name. The company says the cap can absorb impacts up to 90 miles per hour in the front, and up to 85 miles an hour on the sides.
No sooner had Torres taken the mound then social media erupted with comments, most of them negative and some downright derogatory. Players, commentators, fans and even Torres’ wife mocked him for donning the cap. Padres’ announcer Dick Enberg said the cap “didn’t look sexy,” to which Torres responded, “”Timeout, who the hell cares if it doesn’t look sexy?” For Torres, the cap was all about safety, and with good reason. Every time a pitcher takes the mound, he puts his career – indeed his life – in jeopardy.
While the so-called contact sports – football and hockey – have monopolized the headlines when it comes to concussions, baseball is not immune to such injuries. Concussions are a growing concern in MLB, as evidenced by the fact that a specific rule was instituted in 2011 which allows teams to place players on a seven-day concussion DL (Disabled List). Catchers are particularly at risk, despite their extra padding and protective headgear. In the 2013 season, 18 DL moves were related to concussions, up from a total of 13 in 2012 and 11 in 2011. Ten of the 18 moves involved catchers, including Boston Red Sox catcher David Ross twice. Those numbers pale in comparison to the numbers in the NFL – 190 in 2011 – but every concussion injury should be cause for concern.