Foul Ball Liability In Connecticut (He’s Out Part 2)

Yale Stadium

I can practically feel the excitement of defense counsel in the case of Mantovani v. Yale University, 44 Conn.L.Rptr.13 (2007)(Cosgrove, J.)  when he or she read Teixeira v. New Britain Baseball Club, Inc.  and thought that their client would prevail on summary judgment.

After all, Mr. Mantovani like Mr. Teixeira, was enjoying a cookout in the right field pavilion area during a New Haven Ravens baseball game when he was struck in the eye by a batted ball. Mr. Mantovani brought an action for negligence against the operator of the stadium.

The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment claiming that the “limited duty rule” as discussed by the court in Teixeira applied and that the stadium owner was only responsible to place safety nets to protect spectators behind homeplate and was not required to protect the occupants of the right side pavilion area.

The court noted that there is no appellate authority on the applicability of the limited duty rule in Connecticut and like the court in Teixeira looked at cases from other jurisdictions.  In his opinion, Judge Cosgrove relied extensively on the case of Maisonave v. Newark Bears Professional Baseball Club, Inc., 185 N.J. 70 (2005) (holding that the limited duty rule only applies when a spectator is present in the stands).

The  Mantovani  Court analyzed the purpose of the limited duty rule and found that it is based in part on preserving the spectator experience (catching foul balls and not having to watch the game through a screen) and protecting spectators.

The cookout area at Yale Stadium where Mr. Mantovani was seated had picnic tables that were positioned so that half the people seated at the table would have their back to the baseball diamond. Judge Cosgrove noted that because the seating was positioned in such a way where the attention of spectators was taken away from the game the underlying justification of preserving the fan experience carries less weight in the court’s analysis.

Accordingly,  the Court in Mantovani denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment and held that the limited duty rule applies only to injuries occurring in the stands and that the rule did not apply where the plaintiff was in a section of Yale Stadium operated by the defendant that encouraged the plaintiff to engage in activities inconsistent with paying close attention to the action on the field.

Looking at the case detail on the judicial branch website, it appears that a verdict was returned in favor of the defendant stadium operator (Connecticut Baseball, LLC) and that Mr. Mantovani is appealing.

You might ask where does all if this leave us? Legally, potentially with resolution of the scope of the “limited duty rule” by a Connecticut appellate court (though I have not read the appeal and am not sure what Mr. Mantovani is appealing) . For fans, it may mean netting is coming to a picnic area near you. And last but not least, it shows that reasonable minds can reach different conclusions, which may bode well for Jim Rice in his final year on the Hall of Fame Writer’s ballot.