Last week, MLB’s Kansas City Royals lost a motion for summary judgment in John Coomer v. Kansas City Royals Baseball Corporation, a lawsuit arising out of the antics of the team’s mascot, Sluggerrr. Coomer claimed that he was seriously injured when Sluggerrr hit him in the eye with a hot dog thrown during the popular “Hot Dog Toss” promotion.
Summary judgment refers to court dismissing a claim without a full hearing on the evidence, and based on the allegation that there is no claim or defence with a reasonable prospect of success. This is an extraordinary procedure.
As far as the lawsuit goes, as a result of being hit in the eye by a hot dog thrown by the mascot, Coomer alleged he suffered a detached retina, developed cataracts and had surgery. He's asking for $25,000 in a lawsuit filed last year. He claims that he was a mere “few feet away” from Slugger when Slugger’s errant, behind-the-back throw led to Coomer’s left eye getting hit by a hot dog. Coomer claims that as an invitee, he was owed the highest protection of safety, and that the Royals, through failed to exhibit the requisite care.
Traditionally, fans have had a tough time collecting money if hit by a foul ball or bat. That ties into the voluntary assumption of risk principle, which provides that fans should be aware of their environment at a game. However, as Coomer would argue, that doesn't and shouldn't apply to in game promotions.
The Royals moving for summary judgment tied into this principle of voluntary assumption of risk. The Royals argued, in part, that the implied assumption of risk was a complete bar to the lawsuit. The Court did not agree.