Mascots play an important role in any sporting event. They have to perform and prepare the crowd to get loud. They are supposed to be outgoing and fan friendly. However, this was not the case with the Kansas City Royals mascot.
The hot dog injury
In September 2010, a Kansas man named John Coomer filed the so-called “hot dog injury lawsuit” against the Kansas City Royals. Coomer claimed he was injured at a September 2009 game when Sluggerrr, the team’s mascot, threw a hot dog into the stands that struck his eye. Coomer alleged that he suffered a detached retina and other eye damage. He added that he underwent two operations in order to repair his detached retina and to remove a cataract that had developed. It was stated in the lawsuit that Coomer’s vision had deteriorated drastically. Coomer was seeking over $20,000 in compensation from the Royals.
The case went to trial. In 2011, the Jackson County jurors decided the case in favor of the Royals. According to the jurors, Coomer was completely at-fault for his injury, claiming he was not aware of what was going on around him. In January 2013, an appeals court overturned the decision of the lower court. It ruled that being hit with a hot dog is not an inherent risk fans assume at games. Though the case reached the state Supreme Court, the appeals court was still trying to decide if this kind of lawsuit is applicable to the baseball rule. This rule protects teams from being sued over fan injuries caused by events on the field, court or rink.
Can mascots be sued?
This is actually not the first time that a mascot or its team faced a lawsuit. In 2008, a Pennsylvania woman filed a lawsuit against Phillie Phanatic, Philadelphia Phillies’ long-time mascot. According to Grace Crass, her arthritis was aggravated when the team mascot brushed past her in the stands at a 2008 Reading Phillies minor league game. The incident forced her to undergo a knee replacement surgery.
Another incident that also took place in 2008 was when a Naperville dentist sued Benny the Bull, Chicago Bulls' mascot, for giving him an aggressive high-five. Dr. Don Kalant alleged in the lawsuit that he raised his hand to get a high-five from the mascot. However, Barry Anderson, who played the mascot, grabbed his arm as he fell forward, hyperextending Kalant’s arm and tearing his biceps’ muscle. Kalant sought unspecified damages for medical bills, physical pain and lost earnings.
The impact of the hot dog injury lawsuit
Many people were keeping their eyes on the "hot dog injury" lawsuit. Sports teams and even fans all over the country closely watched this case. The ruling of the state Supreme Court can possibly be a legal precedent and when it does, it could affect fan experience and change how teams interact with fans at their games. If the state Supreme Court finds the “throwing of hotdog” not an inherent risk, the Royals may be held liable. However, in case the court rules that such activity is an unavoidable risk and it applies the baseball rule, then the Royals carry no liability. In a personal injury lawsuit like this, it is very important to have a personal injury attorney to represent you. In Kentucky, a personal injury attorney educates an accident victim on the personal injury claims and litigation processes, analyzes legal issues and prepares legal documents.