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Suing if Injured by the Crowd at a Sporting Event or Concert.

I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Today’s question comes from a caller hurt at a sporting event when another spectator fell on them while reaching for a t-shirt tossed in the stands by cheerleaders. They were calling to discuss their legal options.

This question requires a complex answer.

In most cases, an owner or operator of an event may be held liable where they create a distraction that diverts a spectator’s attention from the injury-producing risk. Or, they know or reasonably should have known of such a distraction and fail to take measures to provide for the spectator’s safety.

Think of it this way. Suppose you are a spectator at an alligator park, and you are warned not to try to feed the alligators. If you decide to feed the alligators and get bit, the park operators would argue that you were warned and assumed the risk of injury despite the warnings. Hence, the park operators are not liable.

But, in the caller’s case, another spectator fell on them, and the one who fell was enticed to reach for an object thrown into the stands.

The thing was thrown with the knowledge of the event operator, or they should have known about it.

The caller’s situation is similar to one spectator knocking another alligator park spectator into the alligator pond while reaching for a souvenir frisbee tossed by alligator park employees.

In such a case, the owner or operator of a place conducting a sporting event may be liable to paying spectators for physical harm through the accidental, negligent, or intentionally harmful acts of third persons or animals.

Also, an owner or operator of a facility for sporting events has two duties of supervision:

One, a duty to warn individuals in the crowd or protect them from reasonably foreseeable dangers from the crowd, and

Two, a duty to supervise persons on the premises when the operator has actual or constructive knowledge of a specific risk of harm posed by that particular person.

In our caller’s case, if it is known that even well-behaved spectators reach and jump to catch souvenirs, the danger is foreseeable. The event operator must warn or protect spectators.

If the spectator who knocked the caller down was rowdy and drunk. And the event operator knew or should have known they presented a danger; there is a duty to protect people from the unruly spectator.

The crowded conditions at most sporting events produce a certain amount of unavoidable contact and jostling among spectators. There are likely random occurrences of assault, unruly behavior, and other potentially dangerous conduct. The amount of unruly behavior to be expected may vary according to the customary conduct of spectators at particular sporting events.

Moreover, when the sports facility operator assembles a large crowd on their property, they owe a duty to provide a sufficient number of guards or attendants to deal with reasonably anticipated dangers.

However, an arena operator is not required to have enough employees to watch each spectator to prevent them from injuring another.

Whether the number of guards furnished or other precautions taken by the owner assembling a large crowd of people is sufficient to control the crowd’s actions is a question for a jury to determine.

A court will, thus, take into account the likelihood of injury and the cost of guarding against it in determining whether a legal duty exists to warn against or prevent particular conduct.

Remember that something more than ordinary rudeness and jostling characteristic of crowds at sporting events is necessary to impose upon the defendant owner or operator a duty to intervene.

An owner or operator may likewise be liable when their own conduct contributes to the disobedience of those in attendance.

Suppose a defendant blocks certain exits, and the restriction of egress caused the crowd to become unruly.

This can lead to liability where people are crushed by a crowd at a music concert or other event.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”