John Coomer claimed that he was injured when he was hit in the eye by a foil wrapped hot dog, shot out of an air cannon by Royals' mascot Slugerr, during a 2009 Kansas City Royals game. He sued the Royals for his injuries, which included a detached retina. Coomer lost his first trial and now he is getting an instant replay thanks to a ruling by the Missouri Court of Appeals.
The appeals court held that the trial judge committed reversible error by instructing the jury that Coomer assumed the risk of being hit in the eye by a weenie by attending the game. The court said that being hit by a flying hot dog is not an incidental risk of attending a baseball game.
Now Coomer will get a new trial and the jury may apply Missouri's comparative negligence doctrine to decide the relative negligence of Coomer for looking away and Slugerr for shooting the hot dog into the crowd in a behind the back maneuver. Comparative negligence takes into account the percentage of blame that Coomer should take for contributing to his own injuries and reduces his damages by that amount. It is possible that Coomer may recover money damages for his injury this time around.
This would never "fly" with North Carolina juries. Our system of contributory negligence would dictate that if Coomer was negligent by looking away while a mascot was firing hot dogs into the crowd then Coomer would be barred from recovering against the Royals, even if Slugerr was negligent. And with the prevalence of air cannons being used to shoot prizes into the stands at sporting events, I think the appeals court may have it all wrong.
Well, a Missouri Court of Appeals didn't agree, and now Coomer will get another opportunity to try his case.
If you've taken a close look at a baseball ticket, you'll see a waiver of liability typically printed on the back. This usually covers things that can happen during the normal course of a game, such as getting hit by a ball or a flying bat.