State high court at bat in RailCats foul ball lawsuit

2013-08-19T18:45:00Z 2013-08-20T14:20:06Z State high court at bat in RailCats foul ball lawsuitBy Dan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
August 19, 2013 6:45 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | It's not uncommon for judges to liken themselves to baseball umpires, though rarely do they actually rule in cases involving the national pastime.

But the five justices of the Indiana Supreme Court have agreed to take a swing at deciding if a fan struck by a foul ball at a RailCats game can sue the team for injuries she suffered.

On May 23, 2009 — opening day — Juanita DeJesus was hit in the face by a pop-up foul ball struck by the second batter of the game. The ball fractured several bones in her face and caused blindness in her left eye, according to court records.

DeJesus sued the RailCats alleging the team had an obligation to protect its stadium visitors from harm and was negligent for not providing protective screening from first to third base.

Lake Superior Judge Calvin Hawkins allowed the lawsuit against the RailCats to proceed, but in February the Indiana Court of Appeals threw it out.

The appeals court said no trial was needed because DeJesus was warned three times about the danger of foul balls and chose not to purchase seats behind the screen at home plate.

It also said that in more than 150 years of baseball-related decisions, no court has ever ever concluded a spectator could be unaware that foul balls are part of baseball, potentially dangerous and require that fans pay attention and take steps to protect themselves.

The Supreme Court's decision to transfer the case means the appeals court ruling is thrown out.

The high court likely will hold oral arguments in the case by the end of the year. The "umpires" then typically take several additional months to decide whether it's a hit or out number three.

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