Spectator Injuries and Sports Stadium Liability - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers

Spectator Injuries and Sports Stadium Liability


The only major professional sport not to have a team calling Toronto home is American football. The demand for tickets to sporting events in the city has driven prices up, but higher prices do not seem to be deterring fans from buying them. As attendance at sporting events increases, sports stadium liability for spectator injuries may be an issue fans should take seriously.

Spectator injuries at sporting events

The death of a teenage girl hit by a puck at a hockey game several years ago prompted rule changes in the National Hockey League requiring the installation of safety netting at all arenas. However, the netting did not prevent a spectator at an NHL game from being hit in the head three years ago.

The history of professional baseball is filled with stories of spectators suffering serious injuries or being killed while watching a game. A woman attending a Toronto Blue Jays game was it in the head by a ball during batting practice. This latest incident had people questioning how far sports venues should go to protect spectators from being injured.

Assumption of risk

The generally accepted principle of law has historically been that spectators assumed the risks ordinarily associated with a particular sporting event. For example, the frequency of foul balls at baseball games makes them a risk someone walking into a stadium would ordinarily expect to encounter during a game.

The assumption of risks ordinarily associated with a sporting event did not excuse stadium owners and management from being held liable for a spectator’s injuries if there was evidence to prove they did not exercise reasonable care in keeping the premises safe. For example, spectators seated behind home plate at a professional baseball game are protected with netting to prevent them from being hit by balls or bats. If a hole develops in the netting, it is the responsibility of stadium management to have it repaired to ensure the safety of those seated behind it.

Ontario Occupiers’ Liability Act

The enactment of Occupiers’ Liability Act in Ontario replaced the common law legal principles of premises liability with a statutory duty of care for property owners, including sports stadiums and arenas. Stadium occupiers have a duty to take reasonable care measures to ensure safety of individuals entering upon the premises. Spectators are protected against dangers caused by the condition of the stadium or by activities taking place within the venue.

The law does not abandon the principle of assumption of risk. The statute specifically states that the duty of care owed by occupiers of premises does not extend to risks spectators willingly assume. Stadium occupiers are, under the terms of the statute, not in the position of insurers of the safety of spectators from all risks.

For instance, a person seriously injured by a foul ball at a baseball game might have a difficult time proving negligence on the part of stadium management. Foul balls are common, so a fan entering the stadium could be expected to know the risks and willingly assume them in much the same way as under the common law. The degree to which spectators were aware of the risks associated with an event and whether the measures taken by stadium managers to protect their safety were reasonable depends on the facts and evidence presented in each case.

Experienced Ontario personal injury lawyers

The personal injury lawyers at Diamond and Diamond provide experienced legal advice and superiorrepresentation in pursuing compensation for individuals suffering injuries at stadiums and at sporting events.Call our 24/7 personal injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to one of our team members. We offer free consultations and case evaluations and have offices throughout Ontario.

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