Flying T-shirts and flying hot dogs. No, you are not seeing things and you are still reading about legal matters. Flying objects have caused some problems for professional sports teams, and that is part of what we want to talk about today.

You may have missed the story about the woman who filed a $1 million lawsuit against the Houston Astros earlier this year. The woman claims that a T-shirt gun fired by the Astro’s mascot Orbit broke her finger.

The incident happened during a July game in 2018 which the woman was attending with her family. Orbit fired multiple T-shirts into the crowd, something he does at just about every game. One of these T-shirts allegedly hit the woman and broke her finger. The $1 million in damages she is seeking is to cover the cost of “two surgeries, pain, mental anguish and loss of earnings.”

The lawsuit accuses the Astros of being negligent with the T-shirt gun. It claims that those operating the gun were not properly trained and that the fans were not warned about the T-shirt gun in advance.

The Chicago White Sox and the Kansas City Royals have also faced similar lawsuits, but T-shirt guns are not the only thing that happens at sporting events. Recently, we have seen several fan injuries due to bats flying into the stands. We have seen basketball fans injured by players jumping into them as they leap to keep a ball from going out of bounds.

Sports fan injuries are not uncommon, but can an injured fan actually sue the team?

The nature of these events means that patrons are more at risk of injury than they would be at a typical business. As we discuss this issue, let’s stick to non-ordinary occurrences that happen at sports stadiums that do not usually happen elsewhere. For regular cases like slip and fall incidents that can happen everywhere, refer to our premises liability page.

Getting hit by a baseball, hockey puck, or yes, a T-shirt fired from a gun really only happens at sporting events. What we need to hone in on are the disclaimers you actually agree to by purchasing a ticket and entering the stadium. In most cases, these disclaimers say something about the dangers associated with that particular sport (flying balls, pucks, and even players) that could leave the field of play. The fan assumes the risk of injury from these common occurrences.

However, stadium owners still have an obligation to reasonably minimize risk or personal injury to spectators. Hockey rinks are surrounded by thick plexiglass to keep spectators safe from flying pucks. There is a reason why netting is extended from behind home plate in baseball and extends down the baseline. That is where foul balls usually travel towards the crowds at high speed, and spectators would have no time to react to the ball. Baseball stadium owners are not considering putting nets even farther down after a string of recent injuries.

If you are injured

If you get injured at a sporting event, you should speak to an attorney about your case. If stadium owners or their employees did not take reasonable steps to keep you from getting hurt, you could be entitled to significant compensation for your injuries. Maybe even $1 million due to a T-shirt gun.