Kansas City Royals fan John Coomer was struck in the eye by an errant hotdog thrown by team mascot "Sluggerrr" in 2009, and his subsequent lawsuit may affect the legal standard that protects teams from being sued over fan injuries caused by events on the field, also called the "baseball rule."
Presently, baseball teams are protected from lawsuits over fans being injured by foul balls or flying bats, but Coomer's case has prompted The Missouri Supreme Court to decide whether the rule should apply to mascots and other team personnel.
During the September, 2009 game in question, Sluggerrr pitched a behind-the-back 4-ounce wiener wrapped in foil into the crowd. Coomer, of Overland Park, Kansas, was smacked in the face, detaching his retina. After a surgery to fix his eye, he'd developed a cataract and had to be put under again, to get an artificial lens implanted. His vision has diminished since the incident.
Sluggerrr seems harmless enough:
According to Coomer's attorney Robert Tormohlen, the procedures cost roughly $4,800, and his client is seeking at least $20,000 from the team in restitution. Coomer, 53, is likely seeking much more, though Tormohlen declined to comment.
When the case was heard in a Jackson County courtroom two years ago, jurors had sided with the Royals, asserting that Coomer was at fault for his own injuries, because he wasn't paying attention to the flying hotdog. This ruling was overturned in January, citing that the "baseball rule" doesn't apply to franks.
The Coomer incident is being monitored by baseball teams across the country, as few cases have taken into account the legal obligations of mascots, according to Tormohlen. "If a jury finds that the activity at issue is an inherent and unavoidable risk, the Royals owe no duty to their spectators. No case has extended the no-duty rule to the activities of a mascot," Tormohlen said.
Representatives of the Royals have yet to comment on the present case, though have argued that hotdog throwing has been a staple at Kauffman Stadium since 2000, and are as big a deal as a home run or a strikeout.
The Royals even hold a "Hotdog Derby":
Image via Twitter.