Take the risk, take the lumps

February 27, 2013

Companies have been forced to issue some pretty humorous warnings over the years. McDonald’s and others feel the need to advise us that their hot coffee is, indeed, pretty darned hot. Makers of chainsaws tell us that it’s not a good idea to take actions that would cause the saws to kick back toward our faces. And the producers of Lysol, Liquid Plumber, Clorox bleach, etc., take pains to warn that drinking their products would be a very, very bad idea.

There are two reasons for this: Many people are stupid, and many people are litigious.

Already, some of those hurt when debris flew into the crowd amid a major wreck in a warm-up race for last weekend’s Daytona 500 have retained attorneys and are threatening lawsuits.

Meanwhile, in Idaho, that state’s Supreme Court has given the go-ahead for a man to seek damages from a minor-league baseball team because he was hit by a foul ball and lost an eye.

In both cases, the people who were hurt should have been well aware that the possibility of injury existed when they attended the events.

On a superspeedway like the Daytona track, the average speed for the top cars can be upward of 160 mph, and when you have dozens of cars driving at that speed in a restricted space, accidents are going to happen. In fact, that’s a big reason some folks follow auto racing. It’s safe to say that if there were no accidents, and a race consisted of drivers just going ’round and ’round the track without incident, the NASCAR and IndyCar folks would surely see their fan support decline. The organizations that stage the races go to great lengths to protect their fans, and safety has improved significantly over the years. Unfortunately, even the best safety provisions cannot prevent all incidents in which a fan might be injured, unless fans are moved to a more remote location where they would have to watch the races on closed-circuit TV. The tickets for races let fans know that they are accepting some risk when they attend the events, and we do not believe they should be able to sue if they happen to get hurt, unless they can prove gross negligence on the part of the venue or the sanctioning body.

The same goes for the gentleman who suffered the unfortunate injury at the Boise Hawks baseball game. Anyone who has attended a baseball game, from a Little League contest up to the major leagues, knows that one needs to be alert at all times to the possibility of a foul or mis-thrown ball heading their way. But as anyone who has attended a game lately can attest, there are probably as many fans in the stands intently studying their smartphones as those who are paying attention to the action on the field. And inattention can be painful.

Ultimately, there is risk inherent in attending many sporting events, and if someone accepts those risks – especially if they are spelled out on the admission tickets – they should forfeit their right to be compensated after one of those risks becomes reality.



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