SRLA Notebook

Mar 30, 2007

The Difference Between Crowd Control and Crowd Management
Larry Perkins, the keynote speaker at the 20th Annual Sports and Recreation Law Conference in Raleigh, asked everyone in the room to hold their right hand up and hold their breath. As each person surrendered to the demand of oxygen, they were asked to lower their hand.
Perkins, who is assistant general manager of the RBC Center in Raleigh and incoming president of the International Association of Assembly Managers, wanted to demonstrate how quickly someone could lose consciousness in a setting where a crowd is pushing that person against an immovable object, like a fence or a wall. He emphasized his point by showing the attendees a news report of the tragic Cincinnati rock concert from the 1970s, where several fans were killed in a stampede to get into the arena.
Such a situation, noted Perkins, is an example of crowd control in that it is reactive. “The movement of a crowd is hard to contain,” he said. “There has to be a way for it to dissipate. If you don’t establish controls, the crowd will establish controls.”
Perkins prefers crowd management, which is “proactive.” That means being prepared for early arriving crowds, having enough personnel on hand and offering appropriate seating (not festival seating on the floor where the first to arrive get the best seats).
Keeping Litigation in Check
Perkins said his organization has been successful as far as avoiding litigation through thorough preparation.
“We win cases by preparing up front,” he said. “Any time there is an incident, we take ten pictures, do our measurements, talk to witnesses, etc.
“We also have one of our employees call that person the next day. We do this because it is good customer care. We also do this to see what that person is thinking.”
Legal Trend Favors Stadium Owners/Operators
One of the more interesting talks at the conference addressed the 2005 case Maisonave v. The Newark Bears Professional Baseball Club, Inc., which dealt with the duty of care owed by the owners and operators of baseball stadiums to stadium patrons.
In the case, a foul ball struck plaintiff Louis Maisonave as he purchased a beverage from a mobile vending cart located on the concourse of Riverfront Stadium, the home of the minor league baseball team The Newark Bears. Although vending carts were provided in the protected area, Maisonave patronized a cart that was not protected. He subsequently sued and lost at the trial court level. But the New Jersey Supreme Court overturned the ruling. This spawned the 2006 passage of the New Jersey Baseball Spectator Safety Act, which curtails the rights of spectators in similar situations in the future.
Presenter Stephen L. Shapiro, a professor at the University of Northern Colorado, noted that the courts have “historically favored facility owners and operators based on the principles of assumption of risk and the limited duty rule.” However, there are several gray areas, one of which occurs when the spectator leaves the protected area (netting). Another problem area for facility owners and operators surfaces if the club has introduced distractions, such as an over-exuberant mascot, which makes it more difficult for a spectator to protect themselves from a foul ball. The seminal case on the latter point was Lowe v. California League (
Shapiro highlighted the cases that served to underpin spectator safety issues, including Murphy v. Steeplechase Amusement Co. (1929), Crane V. Kansas City Baseball & Exhibition Co. (1913) and Quinn v. Recreational Park Ass’n (1935).
He added that various states have introduced “pubic policy” statutes designed to protect owners and operators, who typically have a positive economic impact on a community, such as The Baseball Facility Liability Act of Illinois (1992), The Colorado Baseball Spectator Act of 1993, the Arizona Limited Liability Statute (1999) and the previously mentioned New Jersey Act. Shapiro said the legislation was typically created in response to cases, such as Maisonave, or to lure expansion teams.
Shapiro noted that one of the things the New Jersey Act does is “eliminates the opportunity to examine the individual facts of future cases regarding foul ball injuries.”


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