An proprietor of a spectator sporting venue is only under a duty to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances.
On April 14, 1976, plaintiff arrived at defendant school district's baseball field while a high school game was in progress and elected to view the contest from a position behind the three-foot fence along the third base line, approximately 10 to 15 feet from the end of the backstop and 60 feet from home plate. As there were no seating facilities for spectators along the base lines, plaintiff had to stand in order to watch the game. At the time, other spectators were also standing along the base line behind the three-foot fence. There was, however, no proof that the screened bleachers behind home plate were filled or that plaintiff was prevented from watching the game from behind the backstop. The backstop is 24 feet high and 50 feet wide. Approximately 10 minutes after arriving at the baseball field, plaintiff was struck in the eye by a sharply hit foul ball, causing her serious and permanent injury. Plaintiff then commenced the present action against the school district, alleging that the school district was negligent in failing to provide safe and proper screening along the base lines of its field. At trial, the jury found for the plaintiff apportioning 65% fault and assessing damages at $100,000. The appellate court affirmed the trial court and this appeal followed.
Was the school district liable for plaintiff’s injuries where it screened the area behind home plate but did not screen other areas?
“We hold that, in the exercise of reasonable care, the proprietor of a ball park need only provide screening for the area of the field behind home plate where the danger of being struck by a ball is the greatest. Moreover, such screening must be of sufficient extent to provide adequate protection for as many spectators as may reasonably be expected to desire such seating in the course of an ordinary game. In so holding, we merely recognize the practical realities of this sporting event.”