Mets Fan Sues Team After Getting Hit in the Head by a T-shirt Fired from a T-shirt Cannon

Oct 25, 2019

A New York Mets fan has named the team in a lawsuit, after he was struck in the head by a bundled T-shirt fired from a T-shirt cannon on the field, which caused him to temporarily lose consciousness and suffer a detached retina.
Plaintiff Alex Swanson was attending June 5, 2019 home game against the San Francisco Giants when the incident occurred. “My client was enjoying what he thought was a perfect day with his three sons and ended up suffering a severe injury that will likely affect the rest of his life,” said his attorney, Dustin Levine of Ancona & Levine in Mineola, who filed the negligence claim in Queens County Supreme Court.
The game that day was a blowout with the Mets up 6-0 in the sixth inning. It was at that point that Mets employees walked on to the field with the T-shirt cannon, a fan favorite. Swanson made his way down closer to the field in hopes of getting a T-shirt, according to the complaint.
But the employee holding the gun was having trouble readying the cannon to disperse the T-shirts. At one point, he allegedly lowered the muzzle to deal with the issue. The cannon discharged, striking Swanson in the face.
The plaintiff awoke to his sons and Mets support staff surrounding him. While he went to the nurses’ station, he reportedly refused to go to the hospital because he could still see. However, a CAT scan the next day showed that he suffered a concussion and severe eye trauma, with his retina nearly completely severed, according to the complaint.
Swanson claimed that after the incident that the Mets reached out to him and offered him free tickets.
The plaintiff is seeking other deliverables. “First and foremost they should stop using that gun,” he told the media. “It bothers me because it could have hit a little kid. I don’t know why they use them anymore.” Swanson’s attorney echoed that in a statement.
“The Mets must be held accountable, and I hope that we will reach an amicable outcome,” said Levine. “He (Swanson) has not ill will toward the Mets or the players, but he wants to make sure that the cannon is never used again to protect future fans.”
Swanson’s action is not the first such lawsuit brought forth by a plaintiff.
Jordan Kobritz, a Professor in the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland, has written frequently on the specific topic for Hackney Publications.
In particular, he wrote about a similar case against the Astros brought by one of its fans, Jennifer Harughty.
“The Astros, like most clubs, refused to reimburse Harughty’s medical expenses, perhaps fearing such action could be interpreted as an admission of liability,” wrote Kobritz, a former Minor League Baseball team owner and current investor in MiLB teams. “Clubs take the position, supported by language on their website and on ticket backs, and reinforced with PA announcements and in-stadium signage, that fans assume all normal and foreseeable risks associated with the sport when they enter a stadium. A majority of courts side with the teams by applying the “Baseball Rule,” first adopted over a century ago, when deciding negligence cases. Essentially, the rule states that if teams provide adequate seating behind a protective screen for those fans who request it, they are not liable for injuries resulting from flying bats and balls.
“Harughty’s attorney, Jason Gibson, argues the Baseball Rule shouldn’t apply to his client. Gibson says, ‘…you don’t assume the risk of having someone fire a cannon at you that creates that much force at that proximity that can cause that kind of damage.’ His logic is difficult to refute.
“When the Baseball Rule was first adopted, mascots armed with powerful cannons weren’t prowling stadiums armed with powerful cannons. But the sports world has changed since then. At some stadiums, the games have become sideshows to the entertainment, leading to fan distraction.
“… While sympathy may lie with Harughty, the law currently sides with the Astros. But a continued escalation in firepower may ultimately shift the legal advantage to plaintiffs.”
The interesting thing about the instant case is that “distraction” may not be as much of a factor since the fan purposefully walked toward the cannon with the objective of getting a T-shirt. On the other side, it will be interesting to see if there were protocols in place if a cannon is malfunctioning. For example, the number one rule for shotgun enthusiasts is to “always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.”


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