KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In a ruling that could force sports teams to reassess how their mascots interact with spectators, the Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered a new trial for a Kansas City Royals fan who was injured by a hot dog tossed at a baseball game.
The state's highest court said in a unanimous ruling that a legal standard called the baseball rule, which protects teams from being sued over fan injuries caused by events on the field, court or rink, didn't apply to a mascot tossing hot dogs to fans in the stands.
The court said the risk of being injured by a tossed hot dog is not an inherent risk of watching a baseball game.
John Coomer of Overland Park, Kan., said he was hurt at a 2009 Royals game when the team's mascot, Sluggerrr, threw a wrapped hot dog into the stands, striking Coomer in the eye. Coomer had two surgeries and was seeking compensation in excess of $20,000.
The state Supreme Court ruling said a jury that first heard the case and sided with the Royals was improperly instructed to consider whether the risk of the injury from the mascot was an inherent risk of watching the game. "No such argument applies," the ruling said.
Randy Maniloff, a Philadelphia lawyer who often writes about cases involving sporting event spectators, said the ruling could force sports teams to rethink how mascots in the stands interact with spectators.