KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – If it had been a foul ball or broken bat that struck John Coomer in the eye as he watched a Kansas City Royals game, the courts likely wouldn’t force the team to pay for his surgeries and suffering.
But because it was a hot dog thrown by the team mascot — behind the back, no less — he just may have a case.
The Missouri Supreme Court is weighing whether the “baseball rule” — a legal standard that protects teams from being sued over fan injuries caused by events on the field, court or rink — should also apply to injuries caused by mascots or the other personnel that teams employ to engage fans. Because the case could set a legal precedent, it could change how teams in other cities and sports approach interacting with fans at their games.
Coomer, of Overland Park, Kan., says he was injured at a September 2009 Royals game when the team’s lion mascot, Sluggerrr, threw an 11-gram (4-ounce), foil-wrapped wiener into the stands that struck his eye. He had to have two surgeries — one to repair a detached retina and the other to remove a cataract that developed and implant an artificial lens. Coomer’s vision is worse now than before he was hurt and he has paid roughly $4,800 in medical costs, said his attorney, Robert Tormohlen.
Coomer, 53, declined to discuss the case. His lawsuit seeks an award of “over $20,000″ from the team, but the actual amount he is seeking is likely much greater. Tormohlen declined to discuss the actual amount.