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Cubs Dismissed as Defendant in Foul Ball Case

As baseball fans enjoy the beginning of the baseball season with more snow than usual, one Cubs fan prepares for a different match-up.

On August 29, 2017, John Loos of Schaumburg was sitting on the first base line at Wrigley Field. Howeer, Loos suffered an injury when a foul ball hit him in the face, leaving him blind in one eye. According to Adam Loos, John’s son, he raised his hand to block his 60-year-old father from the foul ball. “It was rough,” said Adam Loos. “Someone I looked up to my whole life, I see the ball hitting him, hearing the sound … him falling on me, bleeding all over my shoes.” John Loos sustained a broken nose and six bones in and near his left eye.

In the original Foul Ball Case lawsuit, Loos named both the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball as defendants. Loos sought at least $50,000 in damages. He alleged that the Chicago Cubs organization was negligent in not providing enough spectator netting. He claims that could have prevented Loos’s injuries. However, Cook County Judge John Callahan Jr. sided with the Chicago Cubs and dismissed them from the lawsuit. According to Judge Callahan Jr., Loos and his legal team did not adequately demonstrate that the Chicago Cubs acted recklessly.

But the lawsuit is not fully dismissed.

The Remaining Defendant and Next Steps

Major League Baseball also petitioned to be dropped from the suit, but the Court disagreed. Additionally, Loos’s legal team has another opportunity to make the Cubs a defendant in the suit. Loos’s team will have to prove that the team “’willfully and wantonly’ failed to erect safety netting despite knowing of the injury risk to fans.”

According to Insurance Journal, “Judges across the country frequently thrown out such lawsuits. Illinois is one of four states with a so-called ‘baseball rule.’ The law absolves stadium owners of liability so long as an adequate number of seats are behind protective netting.” The law presumed that fans who sit elsewhere are aware of the chance of being struck by a foul ball or a bat. However, that law has existed for over a century without major changes.

But according to Colin Dun, Loos’s attorney, two exceptions could help them win  their case. Dunn alleges that Illinois’s stadium owner liability law does cover the MLB. Additionally, he argues  the Cubs’ conduct in failing to install netting was reckless.

Previous Foul Ball Claims

In the past, lawsuits brought against baseball teams and the Major League Baseball organization do not regularly succeed. In 2017, a California federal court dismissed a class-action lawsuit against the Major League Baseball organization. Two spectators  claimed the organization should have provided better protecting netting at ballparks. The Court stated that the two fans did not prove that “they and other fans faced a high enough risk of injury.”

While one would think that this news would be defeating to Loos, according to Dunn, he believes this could be a good sign for Loos’s case.

“It means if we prove our facts, then we win at trial,” Dunn said.

Nonetheless, injuries similar to Loos’s and the two California plaintiffs are becoming more common from foul ball accidents.

MLB Recommendations

In 2015, Major League Baseball issued recommendations for netting. They recommended ballparks have protective netting from the team dugouts “for any field-level seats within 70 feet of home plate.” The Major League Baseball organization stated the guidelines a few months after the California federal class-action lawsuit. According to Cubs spokesman Julian Green, the Cubs extended the netting. “The safety of our fans is paramount to a great game day experience,” Green stated. “We will continue to work with Major League Baseball to discuss and explore ways to ensure the safest possible environment for our guests.”

In 2016, the Chicago White Sox extended the stadium’s netting from the home-plate ends but not covering the dugouts.

In September 2017, while attending a baseball at Yankee Stadium, a little girl got hit by a foul ball. This accident caused Major League Baseball’s commission Rob Manfred to say the league is looking again at extending protected netting. In February 2018, the League stated that 30 teams would extend the netting for the approaching 2018 season.

Regardless, John Loos is still a Cubs fan. But the location where he watches the game may have changed. “Honestly,” Loos says, “I would probably be at home or at a bar across the street.”

R.F. Wittmeyer

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