Saunders v. The Baseball Factory, Inc.
5/17/23, Judge Gross
Topics: Duty, Negligence
The Baseball Factory, a company that hosts youth baseball games, did not have a duty to protect an umpire from being punched in the face by a 17-year-old baseball player who was dissatisfied by the umpire’s call of a “strike.” The attack was not in the foreseeable zone of risk created by hosting a baseball game. The risk was not created by the defendant’s conduct; instead, it was a third party. Generally, defendants don’t have to guard against intentional or criminal conduct by third parties unless there is a special relationship between the defendant and the injured party or the defendant has some ability to control the criminal act.
Examples of such recognized special relationships include businesses toward their customers, employers toward their employees, jailers toward their prisoners, hospitals toward their patients, and schools toward their pupils.” A special relationship typically arises in narrow circumstances where the relationship places the defendant in a superior position to control the risk, such as where the defendant has substantial control over the plaintiff so as to deprive the plaintiff of his or her normal opportunities for protection.
Another exception to the rule that a defendant does not have to protect a person from the intentional or criminal acts of a third party is if the defendant is in actual or constructive control of:
(1) the instrumentality; (2) the premises on which the tort was committed; or (3) the tortfeasor. But none of that was the case here. The fact that the defendant published rules against violence did not mean that the attack was foreseeable. Just as it may reasonably be assumed under ordinary circumstances that no one will violate the criminal law, so too may it reasonably be assumed under ordinary circumstances that players will not violate game rules prohibiting violence against officials.
Dismissal in the defendant’s favor on the element of duty was affirmed.