Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Orioles Pitcher Intentionally Throws Ball at Fan Causing Injuries at Fenway Park

Manning v. Grimsley, 643 F.2d 20 (C.A.1 (Mass.), 1981)

What Happened?

The Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park on September 16, 1975 featured a marquee match up between aces Jim Palmer and Luis Tiant.  Both pitchers would toss complete games, with Tiant shutting out the Orioles 2-0.

During the first three innings of the game, Orioles lefty Ross Grimsley was warming up in the visitor’s bullpen next to the right field bleachers.  He was being “continuously heckled” by the fans sitting in the nearby section and he stared the hecklers down on several occasions.  At the end of the third inning, as the bullpen catcher made his way back to the bench Grimsley threw a ball directly towards the hecklers at “more than 80 miles per hour.” 

The bullpen was separated from the stands by a wire mesh fence; however, the ball passed through the fence and struck David Manning (17) in the face.  Manning was admitted to the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary where he had both of his eyes patched and he experienced some swelling to the left side of his face.  It was unclear whether he sustained any permanent injuries, however.  Grimsley replied that he was just warming up and did not mean to hit him.  He was “sorry as heck the whole thing happened.”

Manning filed suit against Grimsley and the Orioles for battery and negligence.   The case proceeded to trial and at the close of plaintiff’s case, the court granted defendants’ motion for a directed verdict, meaning that plaintiff had not carried his burden of proof and was unable to prove the elements necessary to establish that a battery had occurred.  The negligence count survived; however, the jury subsequently found in favor of Grimsley and the Orioles.  Manning recovered nothing.

Plaintiff appealed the court’s ruling on the battery count.

Who won?

Manning won the appeal on the battery count and was granted a new trial.  He did not appeal the jury’s verdict as to the negligence count.

Why?

In order to prove battery, Manning had to show that (1) Grimsley intended to harm him and (2) the harmful contact with him resulted directly or indirectly from Grimsley’s conduct.  Testimony from witnesses included eyewitness observations that Grimsley looked into the stands immediately following the heckling on several occasions and that “he had an angry, frustrated look on his face, as though he were releasing tension” at the moment he threw the ball towards the fans. 

The court found that in light of Grimsley’s status as an expert pitcher, the testimony regarding his actions in response to the heckling and the fact that “the ball traveled at a right angle to the direction in which he had been pitching and in the direction of the hecklers” that the jury reasonably could have determined that Grimsley intended (1) to throw the ball at the hecklers (2) to cause them imminent apprehension of being hit and (3) to respond to conduct presently affecting his ability to prepare to enter the game.  Accordingly, it was error for the district court to have directed a verdict in favor of Grimsley on the battery count.

Then what happened?

There is no further record regarding what happened upon rehearing.

Ross Grimsley went on to win 124 games, including 20 in 1978 with the Montreal Expos.

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