The question of the existence and scope of a defendant's duty of care is a legal question that depends on the nature of the sport or activity in question, the parties' general relationship to the activity, and public policy considerations. Policy is the principal factor in determining whether a duty is owed and the scope of that duty.
The parents' child was struck in the head by a baseball during pre-game batting practice at a baseball stadium and his skull was fractured. At the time, the child was sitting in a picnic area over the home run wall in fair ball territory for a pre-game party. A personal injury action was filed by the child's parents against the baseball club, the city, the baseball team, and the baseball player. Summary judgment was granted to the child. On appeal, the appellate court reversed and adopted a limited-duty rule that applied to owners and/or occupants of a commercial baseball facility.
Were the child and his parents entitled to damages?
The court held that an owner and/or occupant of a commercial baseball stadium owed a duty that was symmetrical to the duty of the spectator. Spectators had to exercise ordinary care to protect themselves from the inherent risk of being hit by a projectile that leaves the field of play and the owner/occupant was required to exercise ordinary care not to increase that inherent risk. Because defendants did not make a prima facie case that they were entitled to summary judgment under the limited duty, but rather relied on their compliance with the baseball rule that the court rejected, the case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings.