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If a Foul Ball Hits You, Does the Team Owe You Anything?

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On August 29, former Phillie and current Florida Marlins infielder Greg Dobbs hit a kid in the face with a line drive foul ball while playing the Mets at Citi Field.

The 12-year-old fan, from Long Island, suffered from severe internal bleeding, had to have had two blood transfusions and four CT scans, and spent five days in the intensive care unit at the hospital.

Dobbs visited the kid in the hospital, gave him the glove used in the game and a signed bat, and called the boy’s family several times to check on his condition. This is all well and good. But shouldn’t the team or Major League Baseball be doing a little more—like covering the kid’s medical bills?

According to the law, no.

While being a baseball fan can be a dangerous prospect*, in the last few decades the courts have pretty consistently come down in favor of the teams, leagues, and stadiums when it comes to lawsuits regarding spectator injuries.

Most of these cases get dismissed under the doctrine of assumption of risk, a defense in tort law that prevents a plaintiff from recovering damages if the defendant can show that the plaintiff voluntarily and knowingly assumed the risks inherent to the activity they were participating in when they got hurt. In the case of baseball, this means that spectators are usually considered to be assuming the risk that a ball, bat, glove or outfielder may leave the field and hit them.

It’s only when “the plaintiff introduces adequate evidence that the amusement facility in which he was injured deviated in some relevant respect from established custom will it be proper for an ‘inherent-risk’ case to go to the jury,” the Pennsylvania Supreme Court explained in one case.

This wasn’t always the norm, though, and from the dawn of major league sports up until the mid-20th century, injured fans usually had the law on their side.

Game Change

In the latter half of the last century, more and more cases were decided in the favor of the teams and leagues. The judges’ decision in the 1986 case of Neinstein v. Los Angeles Dodgers sums up the reasoning behind the shift:

“As we see it, to permit plaintiff to recover under the circumstances here would force baseball stadium owners to do one of two things: place all spectator areas behind a protective screen thereby reducing the quality of everyone's view, and since players are often able to reach into the spectator area to catch foul balls, changing the very nature of the game itself; or continue the status quo and increase the price of tickets to cover the cost of compensating injured persons with the attendant result that persons of meager means might be 'priced out' of enjoying the great American pastime. To us, neither alternative is acceptable. In our opinion it is not the role of the courts to effect a wholesale remodeling of a revered American institution through application of the tort law.”

These days, to cover their butts on the assumption of risk, most, if not all, leagues, teams and stadiums now place disclaimers and assumption of the risk statements on the back of each ticket. There are signs around the stadium, and announcements are made before and during games. Even with this precaution taken, having to go to court in the first place is a drain on time, energy and money. Teams try to further insulate themselves from lawsuits by taking precautions—like having ballgirls hand used balls to fans instead of lobbing them.

Meanwhile, in the courts, determining what constitutes risks “inherent to the game” is the main issue that has to be decided. The courts have long held that the team is in the clear for a spectator struck by a batted ball, whether it happened during the course of the game or in pregame batting practice. But what about a broken bat?  Bat shards enter the seating areas less often than fouls, certainly, but it’s become increasingly common. Courts have found no fault on the defendant’s part in several cases.

What if You Were Buying Peanuts and/or Cracker Jack at the Time?

While judges have generally become more broad in their definitions of what constitutes common and inherent risks of the game, injuries that happen away from the field usually fall outside a fan’s assumed risks. For example, fans have sued and won lawsuits after being struck by an iron entrance gate (Murray v. Pittsburgh Athletic Co.), falling down a staircase, falling into a hole while going to a concession stand (Louisville Baseball Club v. Butler) and getting hit by a ball while getting refreshments.

If you want to learn more about the dangers of the great American pastime, check out Death at the Ballpark: A Comprehensive Study of Game-Related Fatalities, 1862-2007, a detailed catalog of deaths and fatal injuries that happened during the playing, officiating or watching of baseball – including a whole section on deaths by commotio cordis, awful–sounding concussions of the heart caused by balls hitting a particular spot in the chest at the exact moment between heartbeats.

* There’s no centralized tracking of spectator injuries, but one estimate given by people who study these sorts of things is 2,540 injuries per year nationwide. Another study estimated 35 injuries - by foul balls alone – per million spectators per year.

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Big Questions
Who Was Chuck Taylor?
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From Betty Crocker to Tommy Bahama, plenty of popular labels are "named" after fake people. But one product with a bona fide backstory to its moniker is Converse's Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers. The durable gym shoes are beloved by everyone from jocks to hipsters. But who's the man behind the cursive signature on the trademark circular ankle patch?

As journalist Abraham Aamidor recounted in his 2006 book Chuck Taylor, All Star: The True Story of the Man behind the Most Famous Athletic Shoe in History, Chuck Taylor was a former pro basketball player-turned-Converse salesman whose personal brand and tireless salesmanship were instrumental to the shoes' success.

Charles Hollis Taylor was born on July 24, 1901, and raised in southern Indiana. Basketball—the brand-new sport invented by James Naismith in 1891—was beginning to take the Hoosier State by storm. Taylor joined his high school team, the Columbus High School Bull Dogs, and was named captain.

After graduation, instead of heading off to college, Taylor launched his semi-pro career playing basketball with the Columbus Commercials. He’d go on to play for a handful of other teams across the Midwest, including the the Akron Firestone Non-Skids in Ohio, before finally moving to Chicago in 1922 to work as a sales representative for the Converse Rubber Shoe Co. (The company's name was eventually shortened to Converse, Inc.)

Founded in Malden, Massachusetts, in 1908 as a rubber shoe manufacturer, Converse first began producing canvas shoes in 1915, since there wasn't a year-round market for galoshes. They introduced their All-Star canvas sports shoes two years later, in 1917. It’s unclear whether Chuck was initially recruited to also play ball for Converse (by 1926, the brand was sponsoring a traveling team) or if he was simply employed to work in sales. However, we do know that he quickly proved himself to be indispensable to the company.

Taylor listened carefully to customer feedback, and passed on suggestions for shoe improvements—including more padding under the ball of the foot, a different rubber compound in the sole to avoid scuffs, and a patch to protect the ankle—to his regional office. He also relied on his basketball skills to impress prospective clients, hosting free Chuck Taylor basketball clinics around the country to teach high school and college players his signature moves on the court.

In addition to his myriad other job duties, Taylor played for and managed the All-Stars, a traveling team sponsored by Converse to promote their new All Star shoes, and launched and helped publish the Converse Basketball Yearbook, which covered the game of basketball on an annual basis.

After leaving the All-Stars, Taylor continued to publicize his shoe—and own personal brand—by hobnobbing with customers at small-town sporting goods stores and making “special appearances” at local basketball games. There, he’d be included in the starting lineup of a local team during a pivotal game.

Taylor’s star grew so bright that in 1932, Converse added his signature to the ankle patch of the All Star shoes. From that point on, they were known as Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Still, Taylor—who reportedly took shameless advantage of his expense account and earned a good salary—is believed to have never received royalties for the use of his name.

In 1969, Taylor was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The same year, he died from a heart attack on June 23, at the age of 67. Around this time, athletic shoes manufactured by companies like Adidas and Nike began replacing Converse on the court, and soon both Taylor and his namesake kicks were beloved by a different sort of customer.

Still, even though Taylor's star has faded over the decades, fans of his shoe continue to carry on his legacy: Today, Converse sells more than 270,000 pairs of Chuck Taylors a day, 365 days a year, to retro-loving customers who can't get enough of the athlete's looping cursive signature.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
What Is the Difference Between Generic and Name Brand Ibuprofen?
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What is the difference between generic ibuprofen vs. name brands?

Yali Friedman:

I just published a paper that answers this question: Are Generic Drugs Less Safe than their Branded Equivalents?

Here’s the tl;dr version:

Generic drugs are versions of drugs made by companies other than the company which originally developed the drug.

To gain FDA approval, a generic drug must:

  • Contain the same active ingredients as the innovator drug (inactive ingredients may vary)
  • Be identical in strength, dosage form, and route of administration
  • Have the same use indications
  • Be bioequivalent
  • Meet the same batch requirements for identity, strength, purity, and quality
  • Be manufactured under the same strict standards of FDA's good manufacturing practice regulations required for innovator products

I hope you found this answer useful. Feel free to reach out at www.thinkbiotech.com. For more on generic drugs, you can see our resources and whitepapers at Pharmaceutical strategic guidance and whitepapers

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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