South Shore Baseball LLC v DeJesus (2014) H&FLR 2014-39

South Shore Baseball LLC and Anor v Juanita DeJesus (2014) H&FLR 2014-39

Supreme Court of Indiana

27 June 2014

Coram: Dickson CJ, Massa, Rucker, David and Rush JJ

Appearing for the Appellant (Defendant): James R Branit, Mitchell H Frazen, and Nicholas J Parolisi (of Litchfield Cavo LLP)
Appearing for the Appellee (Plaintiff): Walter J Alvarez, Duke T Escue, and David A Wilson (of Alvarez Law Office)
Appearing for an Amicus Curiae (Indianapolis Indians): Andrew B. Janutolo and RD Zink (of Goodin Abernathy)

Catchwords: Indiana – baseball – spectator – foul ball – injury – baseball rule – negligence – premises liability

Facts: On 23 May 2009 the plaintiff attended a minor-league baseball game in support of the South Shore RailCats. Warnings of the danger of foul balls leaving the field were printed on the plaintiff’s ticket, posted on a sign near her seat, and announced over a loudspeaker prior to the start of play. However, the plaintiff sat in a part of the stadium just outside of the are protected by the netting behind home plate. Early in the game the baseball left the playing field, striking the plaintiff and causing serious injuries.

The plaintiff brought proceedings against the operators of the RailCats on the basis that, by failing to extend the protective netting further, they had negligently failed to make the premises (US Steel Yard) reasonably safe for her as a business invitee.

The defendants applied for summary dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim. The trial court declined same: DeJesus v South Shore Baseball LLC (Lake Superior Court, Hawkins J, 16 March 2012, unreported). The defendants’ appeal was allowed: South Shore Baseball LLC v DeJesus, 982 NE.2d 1076 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013). The matter was then transferred to the Supreme Court of Indiana.

Held: Allowing the appeal and granting summary judgment for the defendants, that –

1. The ‘Baseball Rule’, whereby a ballpark operator is protected from liability for injuries from an object leaving the playing field if they have provided screening behind home plate sufficient to meet ordinary demand for protected seating, is not part of the common law of Indiana.

Emhardt v Perry Stadium, 46 NE.2d 704, 113 Ind. App. 197 (1943), doubted.

2. The applicable principle of premises liability law in this case is that a possessor of land is liable for harm to invitees caused by a condition of the land if the possessor should reasonably know of the condition and realise it involves an unreasonable risk of harm to the invitees, and should expect that the invitees will not identify the danger or protect themselves against it, and fails to take reasonable care to protect the invitees from the danger. There was no reason for the defendants to consider that the plaintiff would not realise the danger or protect herself against it.

Pfenning v Lineman, 947 NE.2d 392 (Ind. 2011), applied.

Judgment

The Court’s judgment is available here.