You’ve Just Been Injured While Watching a Sporting Event. Now What?

A history of lawsuits and threatened lawsuits

Golf injury
US golfer Brooks Koepka reacts next to injured spectator Corine Remande who was struck by his tee shot on the first day of the 42nd Ryder Cup.
FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

In 2019, a six-year-old child named Bryson Galaz was watching the Los Angeles Angels warm up before a game when one of the players missed a catch. The ball struck Galaz in the head, and he was subsequently hospitalized. Now, The Guardian reports that Galaz’s family is suing the Angels, arguing that the impact of the ball resulted in brain damage. Their argument? That this could have been easily prevented, either with more netting or by instructing players to be more mindful of where they throw the ball when fans are present.

Unfortunately, this is far from the first time that fans have been injured at major sporting events. But a look back at some recent examples of injuries shows the difficulty in finding a precedent among these disparate events.

Fans have been injured at numerous baseball and hockey games, which makes sense — both involve small objects propelled through the air in spaces with thousands of people watching. But they’re not alone; nearly every sport has led to some sort of fan injury. In 2018, Corine Remande was watching the Ryder Cup when an errant shot by Brooks Koepka struck her, causing permanent damage to her vision. A Sporting Kansas City fan was injured when Kaku, then playing for Red Bull New York, kicked a ball into the stands at 2019 game. Articles on both incidents were quick to explore the legal ramifications of the injuries.

There’s also a more harrowing subset of fan injuries during games — injuries that have proven lethal, and which led to calls for change regarding the in-stadium experience. The 2002 death of Brittanie Cecil at a Columbus Blue Jackets game after she was struck by a puck led to heightened safety measures in the NHL, including the widespread use of puck netting. The 2018 death of Linda Goldbloom at a Los Angeles Dodgers game prompted calls for higher foul ball nets in Major League Baseball.

Disclaimers about objects heading into the stands now abound when attending sporting events, which makes sense — though the lawsuit from Galaz’s family against the Angels ventures into something of a grey area. If a team is looking to make the spectator experience safer, they have plenty of options available. If they’re looking to let fans watch teams warm up from up close, they can do that as well — but, as this lawsuit shows, those two impulses can come into conflict. All of which is to say: even when watching sports, be careful out there.

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