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Baseball patrons assume the risk of being struck at games. One of the natural risks assumed by spectators attending professional games is that of being struck by batted or thrown balls; the management is not required, nor does it undertake to insure patrons against injury from such source. If a spectator chooses to occupy an unscreened seat, or is unable to secure a screened seat and consequently occupies one that is not protected, he assumes the risk of being struck by thrown or batted balls; and, if injured thereby, is precluded from recovering damages therefrom.
Plaintiff Mary Sue Gunther was invited by a friend to attend her first baseball game, a minor league contest between the Triple A-Charlotte Knights and the Jacksonville Suns. During the game, a foul ball struck the plaintiff in the face, causing severe and painful injuries. Plaintiff thereafter initiated the present action against defendant Charlotte Baseball, Inc., the owner of the Knights and the stadium in which they play, alleging negligence in the design and operation of the park. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, contending that plaintiff assumed the risk of being struck by a baseball.
Did the plaintiff assume the risk of injury incurred by being struck by a batted ball, thereby warranting the grant of defendant’s motion for summary judgment?
The court held that the plaintiff assumed the risk of being struck by batted or thrown balls and that the defendant ballpark owner was not required to undertake additional measures to insure patrons against injury from such sources. The court rejected the plaintiff's argument that because she was so unexposed to the game of baseball, she was unable to appreciate the danger of foul balls. According to the court, no reasonably intelligent adult could have failed to realize that she would be injured if struck by a thrown or batted ball. Furthermore, the court held that the defendant did not have a duty to screen all seats because some patrons prefer to sit with an unobstructed view. Finally, the court refused to rigidly apply the foreseeable distraction doctrine because the patron voluntarily assumed the risk of her injuries.