Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fan Sues Andruw Jones and Braves For Errant Toss

Dalton v. Jones, 260 Ga.App. 791, 581 S.E.2d 360 (Ga. App., 2003)

What happened?

Plaintiff, Jacqueline Dalton attended the Atlanta Braves game on June 6, 2000 at Turner Field against the Toronto Blue Jays.  She claimed to have been hit by a baseball that had been thrown into the stands at the end of the inning by center fielder Andruw Jones.  Ms. Dalton was not watching the field because she was getting up from her seat, intending to get a pop from the concession stand.  She claimed to have sustained a permanent eye injury and facial disfigurement.  

Ms. Dalton alleged that the Braves were negligent in failing to provide her with sufficient protection and failing to properly train their players as to the potential dangers of tossing baseballs into the crowd.  She claimed that Mr. Jones should have warned her that he was going to be throwing the ball into the stands and should have yelled something akin to "fore" before tossing the ball. 

The Braves and Andruw Jones countered that Ms. Dalton had assumed the risk of injury from baseballs coming into the stands and that she failed to exercise care for her own safety.

The trial court dismissed Ms. Dalton's claims so she appealed.

Who won?

Andruw Jones and the Braves.  The appellate court affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the case against both defendants.


The courts relied on the holding in a case from 1949, Hunt v. Thomasville Baseball Co., which held that a person who buys a ticket for a baseball game and chooses to sit in an unprotected section of the stands voluntarily assumes the risks of baseballs coming into the stands.  Ms. Dalton confirmed that she had not sat in the protected area of the park and was not keeping a close lookout on the field at the time of the occurrence.  

The court declined to require a duty to warn on the game of baseball finding that "no Georgia case has ever held that a warning is required before a baseball player throws a ball."  Furthermore, they held that whether a ball was thrown in the course of the game or between innings had no legal significance because the "throw occurred during a time which was necessary to the playing of the game, during which time the Plaintiff had assumed the risk of injury from bats, balls, and other missiles."  

Yogi Berra Sues TBS for Racy “Sex and the City” Advertisement

Lawrence Peter Berra v. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.
Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, No. 05600339

What happened?

According to the complaint, Turner Broadcasting System acquired the rights to broadcast “Sex and the City” and from April, 2004 to August, 2004 heavily promoted the program through print advertisements, subway kiosks, display boards and on public buses in New York City and elsewhere in the State of New York. 

The advertisement that Yogi Berra took exception to read as follows:


a) a type of yo-yo trick
b) sex with Yogi Berra
c) what Samantha has with a guy from yoga class.”

The advertisement included a picture of the character Samantha, played by Kim Cattrall, in a “rather alluring pose.”

The Offending Advertisement
Mr. Berra asserted that as a husband, father and grandfather he is deeply religious, maintains a moral lifestyle and “has a spotless reputation for integrity, decency and moral character.” Not surprisingly, Mr. Berra claimed that he had not given permission for TBS to use his name in the advertisement. He further alleged that the advertisement damaged his reputation and that he was not compensated for the use of his name in the advertising campaign.

Mr. Berra sought $5,000,000 in damages under the New York Civil Rights Law and an additional $5,000,000 in damages for unjust enrichment.

Who won?

Yogi Berra, via settlement. The case was reportedly settled out-of-court; however, the terms of the settlement were not disclosed.


Under § 50 of the Civil Rights Law of New York a person, firm or corporation can be found guilty of a misdemeanor if the name or photograph of a living person is used in an advertisement without that person’s consent.

Furthermore, § 51 allows the person to sue to stop the use of the name or photo and for damages arising from the unauthorized use, including exemplary damages.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cubs and Jim Brewer Sue Billy Martin for Injuries Resulting from Bench Clearing Brawl

Brewer v. Martin, 238 N.E.2d 162, 96 Ill.App.2d 54 (Ill. App. 1 Dist., 1968)

What happened?

On August 4, 1960, Cubs southpaw Jim Brewer was making his fourth career major league start against the Cincinnati Reds. In the first inning he walked leadoff man Billy Martin, surrendered three singles and gave up two runs. When Martin came up to bat with two outs in the second inning, Brewer’s first pitch was near Martin’s head. Martin took exception to the second pitch, after which Martin’s bat “either left his hands or was thrown and landed between the pitcher’s mound and the first base.” An argument ensued and a fight between Brewer and Martin escalated into a beach-clearing brawl.

Billy Martin (L) and Jim Brewer (R)

During the melee, Martin punched Brewer in the face and Brewer sustained a broken orbital bone and fracture to his cheekbone area. He was hospitalized for an extended period of time and did not return to pitch in the 1960 season. As a result, Martin was suspended for five games and fined $500 by National League President Warren Giles.

Jim Brewer and the Chicago Cubs filed a lawsuit against Billy Martin seeking both compensatory and punitive damages for an aggregate total of $1,040,000. Brewer’s claims were based on the injuries he sustained and his loss of earning potential. The Cubs’ claims were based on the loss of Brewer’s services and to recoup the money they had spent on Brewer’s training, development and loss of his future services. When Martin found out about the lawsuit he responded, “I wonder if they want this in cash or by check.”

The Reds hired attorneys in Chicago to represent Martin in the lawsuit and represented him for a deposition taken in California in December 1960. Right before the deposition was taken, Martin was traded to the Milwaukee Braves. He played in 6 games for the Braves in before being shipped off to Minnesota where he finished out the year and his playing career in 1961.

As the date of the trial approached, the law firm that had been hired by the Reds to defend Billy Martin decided to withdraw because the Reds were not paying them and Martin had made no offer to personally pay their fees. They made contact with Martin to advise they would be moving to withdraw from the case and would no longer be defending him. On May 23, 1966 the law firm sent Martin a letter advising that their motion to withdraw was going to be heard on June 3, 1966. Martin denied having received this letter or the subsequent copy of the order granting the withdrawal.

When the case was called for trial, no one appeared for Billy Martin. The jury returned a verdict of $100,000 (approximately $720,000 today) against Martin and specifically found that “malice was the gist of the action.” After hearing about the verdict in the news, Martin hired attorneys in an attempt to set aside the judgment. The court reduced the verdict to $35,000 (approximately $250,000 today) but denied Martin’s request that the verdict be set aside. Martin appealed.

What was the issue on appeal?

The court was asked to decide whether the judgment of $35,000 should be set aside because Billy Martin did not know that the case was going to be tried and had no knowledge that the lawyers that had been representing him were granted a withdrawal from the case.

Who won?

Billy Martin. The appellate court reversed the trial court’s holding and remanded the case for a new trial to be held.


The courts hold in the highest regard that justice is achieved through the exercise of fairness to the both parties. Accordingly, the court is given discretion to set aside a judgment. They believed Martin in his claims that he had no knowledge that the case was coming up for trial or that his attorneys had successfully withdrawn from the case.

The court further held that there was a question of fact as to whether “words of provocation” alleged to have been asserted during the baseball game might have provided Martin with a defense.

What happened next?

It was reported that the case eventually settled out-of-court for $10,000 (approximately $72,000 today.)

Jim Brewer came back from his injuries and was a solid major league pitcher for the Cubs, Dodgers and Angels, was an All-Star in 1973 and pitched for 17 years in the majors. He died in an automobile accident on November, 16, 1987 at the age of 50.

Billy Martin went on to manage for parts of 16 seasons for the Twins, Tigers, Rangers, A’s and Yankees, with whom they won the World Series in 1977. He died in an automobile accident on December 25, 1989 at the age of 61.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Man Loses Eye When Struck By Foul Ball and Sues Minor League Boise Hawks

Rountree v. Boise Baseball, LLC, 296 P.3d 373 (Idaho, 2013)

What were the issues?

Should Idaho adopt the Baseball Rule? Did the plaintiff, a spectator at a professional baseball game, consent to the risk of being hit by a foul ball?

What is the Baseball Rule?

The Baseball Rule limits the liability for injury caused by foul balls if the owner of the stadium has adequately screened the “most dangerous part of the stadium” (usually those seats behind home plate) and has screened seats available to “as many spectators as may reasonably be expected to request them on an ordinary occasion.”

The courts in several states follow the Baseball Rule and several states including Illinois, Colorado and Arizona have adopted legislation codifying the Baseball rule.

What happened?

The Boise Hawks are the Class A Short Season affiliate of the Chicago Cubs and play their games at Memorial Stadium in Garden City, Idaho. On August 13, 2008, Bud Rountree took his wife and two grandchildren to the Boise Hawks game at Memorial Stadium. After eating dinner at the ballpark, they went the Executive Club to socialize. The Executive Club is located at the end of the third base line beyond the grandstand and an eating area called the Hawks Nest.

While having a conversation in the Executive Club section and facing away from the action, Mr. Rountree heard the crowd roar and turned his head back to the field just in time to be struck by a foul ball in his face. He sustained injuries to his eye that led to its removal. The Executive Club was covered by horizontal netting but was not protected by vertical netting.

The entrance to the Executive Club had no warning signs posted regarding the dangers of foul balls. The back of Mr. Rountree’s ticket, however, stated the warning, “THE HOLDER ASSUMES ALL RISK AND DANGERS INCIDENTAL TO THE GAME OF BASEBALL INCLUDING (BUT NOT EXCLUSIVELY) THE DANGER OF BEING INJURED BY THROWN OR BATTED BALLS.” Mr. Rountree, a season ticket holder for more than 20 years, claimed that he had never read the back of his ticket before the injury occurred. In the seven years prior to this occurrence, Mr. Rountree was the only person to have suffered a major injury because of a foul ball.

Mr. Rountree filed a lawsuit against the Boise Hawks and a number of other defendants alleging that their negligence caused him to lose his eye. Several of the defendants filed motion for summary judgment with the court asking that the case be dismissed because of the Baseball Rule or, alternatively, because Mr. Rountree assumed the risk of being hit by the foul ball.

Who won?

Mr. Rountree. The district court denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court of Idaho affirmed the ruling of the district court, meaning that Mr. Rountree’s injury case would continue against the defendants.


This was the first time the issue of the Baseball Rule had been before the court in Idaho.

The district court found that while there “may be good reasons to adopt the Baseball Rule,” they deferred to the Idaho Legislature to decide whether to make the Baseball Rule the law.

The Supreme Court noted that despite so many other states having endorsed the Baseball Rule, its widespread acceptance was not enough for them to act similarly. The Court found that the rarity of this type of incident weighed against adopting the rule. Additionally, determining the areas of the stadium that should be protected by netting was an inquiry more appropriate for the Legislature to address.

Furthermore, the Court held that assumption of risk had no legal effect as a defense because Mr. Rountree did not provide express written or oral consent.

What about Mr. Rountree?

The case continues and appears to be headed towards trial. Memorial Stadium Inc. has been recently dismissed from the case so it is possible they negotiated a settlement with Mr. Rountree; however, this cannot be confirmed.