Who is responsible for injuries suffered by spectators at sporting events? - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers

Who is responsible for injuries suffered by spectators at sporting events?


Sports fans in Ontario have baseball, hockey and other professional teams to follow. The popularity of spectator sports and the sizable crowds drawn to those events can increase the likelihood of fans suffering injuries either as a result of a baseball or hockey puck flying into the crowd or as a result of the actions of other spectators. Personal injury lawyers are frequently called upon to determine responsibility when someone is injured while attending a sporting event.

Hockey pucks, baseballs and other risks of a sport

A baseball player being hit by a pitched ball and a hockey player struck by a puck or a stick are common occurrences in those sports. Players accept the risks normally associated with the sports in which they participate, so a batter injured by a ball would not have a claim against the pitcher who threw it. Standing in the batter’s box as a ball is thrown toward you at incredibly high speed is an accepted risk the players accept when they agree to play the game.

Spectators at sporting events also assume a certain degree of risk when they enter a stadium or arena to watch a game. The risks are those ordinarily and foreseeably associated with the particular sport or event. For example, foul balls are a routine occurrence in baseball. Many, if not most of those foul balls end up going into the areas where spectators are seated. Someone entering the ballpark knows or should know that foul balls will occur and should watch out for them to avoid being hit.  

Occupiers’ Liability Act in Ontario

The law imposes upon the owners or occupiers of premises, including stadiums, arenas and other locations where spectators go to view sporting events, a duty to ensure the safety of people entering them. This is not an absolute guarantee by the owners of a facility that spectators will be safe.

Aside from the risks associated with a particular sport that spectators assume when they enter a facility, incidents unrelated to the sport might result in the facilities owners or tenants being held responsible for injuries suffered by spectators. For instance, a person attending a hockey game and slips and falls on a wet floor area near the concession stand might have a claim for compensation if the hazardous condition was the result of inadequate maintenance by the facility owners or management.

Reasonableness and foreseeability

Sports venues have an obligation to act reasonably to ensure spectator safety. Fans assume the risk that a hockey puck could fly into the spectator seats and cause an injury, but legal issues could arise about whether the facility managers too reasonable steps to protect people from being injured due to foreseeable risks.

For instance, professional hockey arenas installed netting to augment the protection afforded fans against the dangers of pucks leaving the ice and flying into areas in which spectators are seated. The netting was added behind and around the area behind each goal following the death of a spectator who was struck by a hockey puck. Whether the netting should be extended or other measures taken by leagues or venue owners could ultimately be a question courts will have to resolve when someone is injured.

Ontario personal injury lawyers

If you are injured while attending a sporting event, the personal injury lawyers at Diamond and Diamond have years of experience successfully handling compensation claims for people injured through the negligence of other parties. Call their 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit their website to speak to someone now. They offer free consultations and case evaluations to injured victims throughout Ontario.

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