If you ask the average law student what negligence means, you will get a fairly simple answer: the failure to do or not to do what a reasonable person would do in the same or similar circumstances. If you ask a practicing personal injury attorney what negligence means, you will probably get a question instead of an answer.
The attorney will want to know about about the circumstances, what the plaintiff was doing and where the parties were, whether the accident was here or in another state and, of course, whether you want to know about negligence or liability, because one does not always follow the other. For example, New York is the only state with an absolute liability scaffold rule. Only in New York is a contractor or property owner liable if a construction worker falls at a worksite even if the injury was the result of the worker's own negligence.
The case we're talking about involves a woman at a baseball game. A foul ball struck her in the face, breaking bones and, ultimately, costing her the sight in her left eye. She filed a premises liability claim against the ballpark. The ballpark argued that she knew the risk when she sat down for the game.
The court agreed with the ballpark that the victim had no claim. There are plenty of warnings at the ballpark and on the tickets, so, the court said, we can reasonably assume that she knew the risk. What the court did not agree with was the ballpark's recommendation that the state -- Indiana in this case -- adopt the "baseball rule."
The baseball rule holds ballparks harmless for any injuries that occur to attendees if the ballpark has installed protective screens to shield the most dangerous seats. The attendee can be sitting anywhere in the park, and the injury can be of any severity. The court saw no need to grant special status to the national pastime.
New York has not adopted the baseball rule, but New Jersey has. It's a relief to some, then, that the rule does not apply to football -- New Jersey law could be applied to a case against a New York team, and that could open a whole new can of worms.
Legal Newsline, "Woman hit in face by foul ball loses case against Ind. independent league team," Heather Isringhausen Gvillo, July 2, 2014
South Shore Baseball, LLC v. DeJesus, --- N.E.3d ----, 2014 WL 2922384 (Ind.,2014) via Westlaw