A woman suffered “significant and excruciating injuries” when then-Atlanta Braves outfielder Jorge Soler threw a ball into the stands during the 2021 World Series, according to a lawsuit she filed last week.
The incident occurred on Oct. 29, 2021, just before the start of the fifth inning, when Soler, after completing warm-up tosses, threw a ball into the seats, according to the civil action filed in Georgia’s Cobb County Superior Court.
Norris, her husband and brother-in-law were seated in the lower deck of Atlanta’s Truist Park, in Section 109 by the right field foul pole, when she was struck, her attorney, Susan Shaw, wrote in the lawsuit.
The toss wasn’t a typical arching loop that most players launch into the stands, the lawsuit claimed.
“Defendant Soler thew the ball overhand, with great force, and intensity in the immediate direction of” Norris, according to the complaint.
The ball allegedly hit Norris “directly in her right eye causing extensive and excruciating injury to her right eye.”
Those wounds included “multiple fractures, a right eye edema, and infra-orbital abrasion,” which has forced Norris to “seek extensive medical treatments for the injuries” that will “require long term medical care,” according to the lawsuit.
It’s been a long-held tenant of civil law that fans surrender nearly all claims of injury from balls and bats flying into the stands at baseball games.
For decades, tickets were printed to include legal language telling spectators they assumed all risks of bats and balls striking them from the moment they clear the turnstiles.
The Braves strongly denied any wrongdoing.
“Mrs. Norris’ injury was not due to any negligence on the part of Jorge Soler, the Braves, or anyone affiliated with our organization,” a team spokesperson said in a statement Thursday night.
“We intend to answer and deny the claims and immediately move for the court to dismiss the case based on the legal precedent that has clearly and unwaveringly been set not only in Georgia but across the country.”
But Norris’ claim could have some “wiggle room” in the long-held “baseball rule” of fans surrendering their rights, Georgia State University law professor Kelly Cahill Timmons said.
While it’s reasonable to believe a team or player can’t be held liable for a foul ball, home run or errant bat hitting a fan, intentional acts that are not part of play — such as a post-warmup toss — could be subject to litigation, Timmons said.
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that the Kansas City Royals were not totally off the hook when their mascot, Sluggerrr,used an air cannon to fire a hot dog into a man’s eye, allegedly leading to a detached retina.
“I don’t think this is a case where there’s no way she could win because it’s so clear that (Soler’s throw) is inherent in attending a baseball game,” Timmons told NBC News on Thursday.
Coincidentally, Timmons spent a chunk of her Thursday delivering a lecture to students on torts, which included the history of lawsuits involving baseball fans.
“I don’t know if we can say that a player purposefully throwing the ball into the stands while the game is not going on is inherent enough in the game of baseball that everyone who goes to a game should assume that would happen,” Timmons said.
“I mean, we like it when players interact with fans. Kids are happy to have a baseball thrown to them. But that isn’t necessarily inherent in the game.”
Norris’ attorneys insisted that the defendants “breached their duty” by “failing to keep the premises in a safe and proper condition” and by allowing for “dangerous and reckless conduct by” Soler, according to the complaint.
Soler played a key role this year in leading the Marlins to their first winning season, aside from the pandemic-truncated 2020 campaign, since 2009.
He blasted a team-high 36 home runs this past season, tied for 12th best in all of baseball.
Soler’s agent in Los Angeles could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday.