High Court Declines to Re-visit Previous Conclusion in Baseball Case

Nov 19, 2004

The Supreme Court of Oklahoma has affirmed a lower court’s finding in a personal injury case, where a spectator who was injured at a baseball game sought to turn the high court away from well-recognized case law in the state and assign liability for his injury to the defendants.
Specifically, the plaintiff failed to convince the court to overhaul its conclusion in Hull v. Oklahoma City Baseball Co., 1945 OK 194, 196 Okla. 40, 163 P.2d 982, which held a spectator seated in an unscreened portion of a grandstand at a baseball game assumes all normal or ordinary risks attendant upon the use of the premises.
The incident leading to the litigation occurred on April 17, 1998 when R. Keith Tucker was struck in the head by a foul ball, while attending a baseball game at the Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Tucker and his spouse, Pam Tucker, sued on August 8, 2002, seeking compensatory and punitive damages for injuries allegedly caused by the wanton, reckless and gross negligence of the defendants — Architectural Design Group, Inc. (architect/designer of stadium), the Oklahoma City Athletic Club (lessee and operator of the ball park/stadium), and the Sports Management Group (stadium consultant)
In its analysis, the court noted the unusual argument made by the plaintiffs in that they are asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court “to change the old rule of Hull v. Oklahoma City Baseball Co. that a fan who sits in the unscreened portion of the bleachers at a baseball game cannot recover if hit by a ball.”
It further noted that the plaintiff “conceded” that “the trial court should grant Defendants’ respective motions and enter judgment in Defendants’ favor as a matter of law pursuant to the rule in Hull, thereupon Plaintiffs would pursue the overruling of Hull on appeal to this Court.”
The court continued: “While the rule in Hull has been summarily labeled ‘assumption of the risk,’ the Hull Court’s ruling actually encompasses several additional key determinations as a matter of law: the absence of a duty on the part of the owner or occupant of the premises to reconstruct or alter the premises so as to obviate known and obvious dangers, and the absence of defendants’ liability for a spectator’s injury resulting from an obvious danger or one that should have been observed in the spectator’s exercise of ordinary care. Hull, 163 P.2d at 982. Further, Hull’s conclusion that ‘there was no unreasonable risk not appreciated by the plaintiff as a spectator of the baseball game,’ amounts to a determination that the risk of injury by a foul ball is a normal or ordinary risk, which is open and obvious to a spectator at a baseball game as a matter of law, for which defendants have no duty to warn. Id. at 984.”
The court found, however, that “the facts in this case are analogous to the facts in Hull, and as such, the case is subject to dismissal pursuant thereto.” Tucker et al. v. ADG, INC., et al.; S.Ct.Okla.; No. 98,895; 9/21/04
Attorneys of Record: (for plaintiffs) Rex K. Travis of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (for defendants) Robert D. Looney, Jr. of Hall, Estill, Hardwick, Gable, Golden & Nelson, P.C., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Natalie K. Ramsey and Bradley K. Donnell of McAfee & Taft, P.C., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


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