Texas Plaintiff Takes Another Swing at the "Baseball Rule"

For many, excitement at the ballpark includes the possibility, however remote, of a batted ball heading into the awaiting throngs in the stands. Because this is considered an ordinary part of the game that fans expect, if not embrace, the “baseball rule” of limited liability has protected stadium owners and operators for decades, making it all but impossible for a fan to recover when struck by a batted ball. Plaintiff Shirley Martinez is down to her last strike in her effort to change the rules of the game, having recently filed a petition for rehearing before the Texas Supreme Court.

According to papers filed in Martinez v. Houston McLane Co., LLC, on September 7, 2009, Ms. Martinez attended a Houston Astros baseball game with a large group of Texas National Guard members and families. Upon request, the Astros had donated a large block of tickets to the group. The seats were in the right field bleachers in fair territory. Ms. Martinez arrived during batting practice. She escorted four children as well as a baby in a stroller. When they arrived at their section, an Astros usher informed Ms. Martinez that she would have to store her stroller in another section of the ballpark. Ms. Martinez left the stroller at the top of the stairs while she took the children down to their seats. She then left all but the baby with other adults in the group, and started up the stairs, holding the baby, to move the stroller.

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