A man who claims he was blinded in one eye by a foul ball at a New Orleans Zephyrs game last year is suing the team and the state body that built and owns the Metairie ballpark.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Jefferson Parish, Don Wilson alleges that both the Zephyrs and the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, also known as the Superdome Commission, are liable because they failed to install any netting or fencing that would have protected him. He also claims that he wasn’t properly warned about the risk of being struck in the area where he sat on May 6, 2014.
Wilson, a Tangipahoa Parish resident, was seated behind the third-base dugout in Row 17 of Section 114. The lawsuit says he was watching the game when “a sharply hit foul ball careened off of a hand rail or seat” and struck him in the right eye.
Wilson claims he not only lost vision in the eye but also sustained a traumatic brain injury and suffered scarring and disfigurement.
The suit accuses the Zephyrs and the LSED of “creating an unreasonable risk of harm by allowing patrons to sit in the area behind the third base dugout without proper protection” or warning.
It seeks damages for Wilson and his wife, Barbara, for future medical expenses, loss of earning capacity and emotional distress, among other things.
The Wilsons’ attorney, Timothy Pujol, did not respond to a message requesting comment on the case Tuesday.
Zephyrs General Manager Mike Schline declined to discuss the specifics of the suit, but he said fans are warned about the danger of foul balls with signs and public address announcements.
Zephyrs staffers on occasion also warn inattentive families sitting behind the dugouts that “foul balls come very quick,” Schline said. “We take it very seriously.”
In general, organizations that are sued after an injury caused by a foul ball invoke what’s known as the “Baseball Rule,” which requires only that stadium owners screen off the stands behind home plate, the most dangerous part of a ballpark.
The rule holds that spectators sitting in other areas are accepting an inherent risk of injury by doing so. Louisiana is one of several states where the rule has been applied.
On the other hand, judges have occasionally declined to uphold the rule. An appeals court in Georgia allowed a lawsuit brought by the father of a 6-year-old girl whose skull was fractured by a foul ball to proceed against the Atlanta Braves.
The girl and her parents were seated behind the third-base dugout at the Braves’ home stadium in 2010 when a line-drive foul ball hit the child in her forehead, breaking her skull in 30 places and causing a traumatic brain injury, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.
The girl’s parents and their lawyer argued that protective netting should have extended to the area of the park where they were seated.