Milwaukee Brewers: New Jersey Woman Sues Team After Foul Ball Injury

At 56-74 and with longtime outfielder Ryan Braun potentially on the move, Milwaukee Brewers fans — and possibly those in the organization too — are waiting for the season to end and the Green Bay Packers’ season to start. Unfortunately, there’s another problem that the organization is facing besides losing: lawsuits.

According to Maggie Angst of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a New Jersey woman is taking the Brewers and Miller Park to court not for the team’s losing ways, but for their negligence when it comes to fan safety. During an August 2014 game between the Brewers and San Francisco Giants, a game the Giants won by a 7-4 final score, 45 year old Dana Morelli was drilled below the left eye by a ball in batting practice.

Injuries sustained by Morelli, who was attending the game with her fiance and his son, include the following:

  • an orbital fracture to her left eye socket.
  • damage to the iris.
  • damage to nerves in the eye.
  • concussion-like symptoms that forced her to sit in a dark room for days before being medically cleared to return home to New Jersey.

Michael Sperling, the attorney who filed the lawsuit earlier this month in Milwaukee County Circut Court, was quoted as saying the following.

“People should be more protected during batting practice since there is no game to even watch. Whatever they put up was clearly insufficient to protect my client.”

The lawsuit also claims that the organization violated Wisconsin’s “safe place statute,” which requires property owners to do everything “reasonably necessary to protect the life, health, safety, and welfare” of both employees and visitors. By not having adequate netting and protection for fans, this supposedly puts the Brewers as an organization at fault due to what some may call a fluke injury.

Miller Park Brewers
[Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images]

Injuries involving fans in Major League Baseball parks are nothing new, especially in Milwaukee; last July, as Angst noted, a foul ball to the face resulted in a fractured forehead for one female fan, while a third woman avoided major injury just last week when a foul ball came inches away from her head — and “only” ended up drilling her ear, as a Wisconsin ABC affiliate passed along following a Rockies-Brewers game.

The 2010’s as a whole have been unkind to fans attending Major League Baseball games, actually. Some notable incidents (major NSFW and trigger warning due to gore, blood, and death) include the following.

  • Shannon Stone falling at a Texas Rangers game in 2011 and dying in the process. Stone’s son, Cooper, later threw out the first pitch in Game One of the 2011 ALDS to Rangers outfielder and All-Star Josh Hamilton, starting off a postseason run that included the team’s second consecutive American League pennant.
  • A 63 year old woman was hit by a foul ball passing through a safety neat earlier this year at Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays.
  • Also this year, one fan at a Houston Astros-Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park was struck by a bat and thankfully avoided major injury. (Boston Herald)
  • Sticking with Fenway Park bats, Red Sox fan Tonya Carpenter was severely injured when Oakland Athletics infielder Brett Lawrie’s bat broke and accidentally struck her in the face. (USA Today)
  • During a nationally-televised game between the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves last August — a year ago today, in fact — one fan fell from the upper deck and died. (CNN)

Let’s also not forget Marie Olbermann, the late mother of former ESPN and CNN host Keith, who was drilled by an errant throw from former New York Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch in 2000, as the L.A. Times reminds us. Maybe the safest place to be at a baseball game could just be on the couch with a beer on one side and a pet on the other.

Josh Hamilton Cooper Stone
[Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]

Per organization policy regarding “pending ligation,” the Brewers refused to comment on the situation and the lawsuit.

While some will continue to get bored of the fan safety argument and instead respond that fans should be more accountable, the reality here is that these incidents are going to keep happening unless Major League Baseball adopts the NHL’s idea of glassing the field of play off from fans — something that will never happen in a sport where catching foul balls is treated as an accolade and even more of an incentive to pay for better seats. As commissioner Rob Manfred and the sport try to figure out the best ways to keep fans safe, it’s possible to make the argument that no one — not even the Brewers — are at fault for what happened to Ms. Morelli.

What happened, simply, was a fluke accident caused by a ballpark design flaw that has become more and more apparent in recent years. In the same way that art comes from adversity, the result of bad things and events can lead to positive changes that include more netting and more protection.

The positives to be taken away from this are as follows.

A. Morelli is alive.

B. the Brewers are working to add more netting and provide a safe environment for all those in the ballpark. Most likely, a settlement will be reached between the two with the Brewers potentially offering tickets for her to see the Brew Crew play at either Yankee Stadium (which could be as soon as next year) or Citi Field.

Even then, maybe she’ll just want to take a rain check and watch the game from home. At least there, the only thing you have to worry about hitting you in the face is a pet jumping on you.

[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]