In a recent lawsuit filed last week, a woman sustained severe and agonizing injuries during the 2021 World Series when the Atlanta Braves outfielder Jorge Soler threw a ball into the stands. The incident transpired on October 29, 2021, just before the start of the fifth inning when Soler, following his warm-up tosses, hurled the ball into the seats. The lawsuit, filed in Georgia’s Cobb County Superior Court, reveals the details.
The victim, identified as Norris, was seated in the lower deck of Atlanta’s Truist Park, specifically in Section 109 near the right field foul pole, accompanied by her husband and brother-in-law. It was during this time that she was struck by the baseball, causing significant harm, as described by her attorney, Susan Shaw, in the legal complaint.
Notably, the ball’s trajectory was atypical, as the lawsuit alleges that “Defendant Soler threw the ball overhand, with great force and intensity in the immediate direction of” Norris. The impact resulted in the ball hitting her right eye, inflicting extensive and excruciating injuries, including multiple fractures, a right eye edema, and infra-orbital abrasion. These injuries necessitated extensive medical treatment and long-term medical care, according to the lawsuit.
Traditionally, the realm of civil law has held that fans assume the majority of the risks associated with balls and bats entering the stands at baseball games. Tickets often featured legal language indicating that spectators bear all such risks once they enter the ballpark.
The Atlanta Braves vehemently denied any wrongdoing, with a team spokesperson stating, “Mrs. Norris’ injury was not due to any negligence on the part of Jorge Soler, the Braves, or anyone affiliated with our organization.” The team expressed its intent to refute the claims and request the court’s dismissal based on established legal precedent.
Nevertheless, Norris’s claim may challenge the long-standing “baseball rule” of fans surrendering their rights. Georgia State University law professor Kelly Cahill Timmons noted that while it may be reasonable to absolve a team or player in cases involving foul balls, home runs, or errant bats, actions that are intentional and unrelated to gameplay, like a post-warmup toss, could be subject to litigation. Timmons pointed to a 2014 ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court, which held the Kansas City Royals partially responsible when their mascot inadvertently injured a fan with a hot dog fired from an air cannon.
Timmons suggested that in this case, it’s not so clear-cut, as it’s not necessarily inherent to attending a baseball game for a player to purposefully throw a ball into the stands when the game is not in progress.
Norris’s legal team argued that the defendants breached their duty by failing to maintain a safe environment and permitting dangerous and reckless conduct by Soler, according to the complaint.
The game in question, which Norris attended, saw the Braves defeat the Houston Astros 2-0 in Game 3 of the World Series, and the Braves ultimately claimed the championship in six games.
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Following that season, Soler left the Braves and signed with the Miami Marlins in one of the major free-agent deals orchestrated by then-Miami general manager Kim Ng. Soler played a pivotal role in leading the Marlins to their first winning season in many years and had an impressive season, hitting a team-high 36 home runs, ranking among the top 12 in the league.
As of the time of this report, Soler’s agent in Los Angeles had not issued a comment regarding the lawsuit.