(AP) – Neither the Kansas City Royals nor a man who was struck in the eye with a foil-wrapped hot dog in 2009 were at fault, a western Missouri jury said Wednesday in a case seen as a challenge to the long-held “baseball rule.”
John Coomer, 54, of Overland Park, Kansas, said he suffered permanent eye damage when the team’s lion mascot Sluggerrr whipped a 4-ounce hotdog behind his back and struck him in the eye at a sparsely attended September 2009 Royals game.
He has incurred tens of thousands of dollars in medical expenses after suffering a torn retina, Coomer said Wednesday after the ruling, and also said he wanted the team to be held liable for the reckless actions of its mascot.
“The reality is it’s not just specific for this particular case; it’s a big, big-picture thing going forward,” Coomer said.
The Royals argued that under the baseball rule, Coomer was responsible for paying attention to everything going on around him, whether that be foul balls flying into the stands or a hot dog tossed by the mascot.
The so-called baseball rule is a legal standard that protects teams from being sued over fan injuries caused by events on the field, court or rink. A partial victory for Coomer could have forced teams to rethink their promotions or take additional measures to keep spectators safe.
His lawsuit has taken a circuitous route since it was first filed. In 2011, a Jackson County jury found that Coomer was 100 percent at fault for his injury. He appealed, and in 2013 a Missouri appeals court ruled that mascots are not a necessary part of playing baseball and thus aren’t covered by the baseball rule.
The Missouri Supreme Court last year sided with the appeals court, and sent the case back to Jackson County for another trial.
Coomer said he was disappointed with Wednesday’s ruling but doesn’t plan to appeal. An attorney for the Royals declined to comment.