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In MLB, Fans may be at Greater Risk than the Players


On August 29, 2015, fans showed up at Turner Field to see a great game between the Atlanta Braves and the New York Yankees. Instead,what they saw was a horrific tragedy. Greg Murrey, a 60 year old season ticket holder of 23 years from Alpharetta, Georgia, fell at least 40 feet from the top deck to concrete below. Witnesses described Murrey yelling excitedly at Yankees' player Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) as he went up to bat. Leaning over the railing, Murrey got caught up in the momentum of his actions and lost his balance, falling over the railing to his death. Stunned fans tried to shield their children from the gruesome sight, while others screamed and cried. The game went on, a decision that was heavily criticized later on social media. At the next night's game, a moment of silence was observed in honor of Mr. Murrey, and flags were lowered to half staff.

Mr. Murrey's tragic death is not an isolated occurrence, however. Three people have died from falls at Turner Field alone since 2008 (one was ruled a suicide, although the family disputes this). Injuries from foul balls and shattered bats are frighteningly common. This summer alone, four serious injuries made headlines. At Fenway Park in June, a woman was hit in the head by a jagged piece of a bat that had shattered. She required three dozen stitches and had to be hospitalized for her injury. In July at Fenway Park again, another woman was hit by a foul ball. In one weekend in August, a fan was hit in the head by a foul ball in Detroit, and another fan was hit by a line drive at Wrigley Field in Chicago.


The incident at Fenway Park in which a piece of a shattered bat injured a fan so severely that she was hospitalized and had to enter rehabilitation occurred during a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics. Interestingly, a month later, an Oakland Athletics season ticket holder filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of California seeking class action status on behalf of all fans buying season tickets in unprotected areas of major league parks. The lawsuit does not ask for any monetary relief; rather, the putative class wants screens to run from foul pole to foul pole rather than just covering the few sections behind home plate that they typically cover now. The lawsuit seeks to protect fans from flying bats and foul balls that have been injuring fans at a rate of 1,750 preventable injuries a year, according to their estimates.


The death of Greg Murrey has renewed calls by players and fans for an update to the safety standards governing railing heights in stadiums. Current regulations set the height for railings in front of seats at 26 inches--a height many feel is too low to be sufficiently protective. The Texas Rangers voluntarily raised the height of the railings in their stadium to 42 inches after two fatal accidents in 2011, and many are advocating for 42 inches to be the new regulatory height for all stadiums. Plans for the new stadium that will open in Atlanta in 2017 will need to address the issues of railing height and extended netting.


If you or someone you love has been injured while attending a sporting event, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free evaluation of your legal rights.

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