Are Venue Owners to Blame for Sporting Event Injuries?
Imagine its hockey season. You and some friends love hockey, so you grab some tickets and head to the game. You grab a plate of nachos, a pretzel and a beer. Things are going great until late in the second quarter when a slap shot sends the puck ricochet off the goal post, into the stands and your right jaw.
You are rushed to emergency room where they treat you for a broken jaw. You are sent home with your mouth wired shut and in terrible pain.
Do you have a right to sue?
When You Can’t Sue: The Assumption of Risk
When it comes to attending sporting events—whether it’s your kids soccer game or the NBA finals—the owners of the venue post signs warning spectators that there is a risk they could be injured. Furthermore, as a spectator of a sporting event it is assumed you understand the risk of being hit by a flying object like a hockey puck.
In other words, by attending the event you are waiving your right to sue. Because of this waiver, which is based on the legal rule of “assumption of risk,” courts will typically dismiss any cases that are seeking damages caused by an injury you got as a spectator.
When You Can Sue: Exceptions to the Rule
However, if the owner is at fault for not taking appropriate actions to protect fans or were negligent in their duties and you sustain an injury at a sporting event, then they may be liable for your injuries.
For instance, most hockey rinks have protective glass surrounding the rink. If the owner of the hockey rink, to save money, used half the height of the glass for regulation to save money, then he may be responsible for your injuries.
Another example is the lawsuit against the Los Angeles Dodgers after San Francisco Giants fan Brian Stow was severely beaten. The family is arguing that Stow suffered the assault and his injuries because of lax security measures and a half-off beer promotion. Or take the example of fights breaking out at NBA games that eventual spill out into the crowd. If you are injured during that event, then you may be able to sue.
What to Do If You Are Injured at a Sporting Event
No matter how minor the incident, if you are injured while at a sporting event here is what you should do:
- File an incident report with the venue. Make sure it is an accurate statement, and get the contact information for any witnesses. Take a copy of the incident report for your files.
- Seek medical treatment from first-responders on the scene or have someone take you to the hospital right away. Get pictures of your injuries.
- Contact a personal injury lawyer.
The point of bringing a case against a venue owner is to recover the damages—basically financial—that you suffered and return you to the condition you were before the injury. These types of cases are seeking collateral damage, while punitive damages seek to punish the venue owners for their negligence…if it can be proven.