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Emily Cohen
Emily Cohen
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Spectators Must Assume Risk at Youth Sporting Events

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So it's come to this. A woman hit by a ball while sitting near a Little League diamond two years ago is suing the then-11-year-old player who threw the ball. Elizabeth Lloyd's lawsuit alleges that the errant throw was "intentional and reckless." According to Lloyd, the player, Matthew Migliaccio (now 13) "assaulted and battered" her and caused "severe, painful and permanent" injuries. Really? Assault and battery? Intentional? Can you see my eyes roll? And that's just the first count.

The second count alleges that Migliaccio's actions were "negligent and careless" through "engaging in inappropriate physical and/or sporting activity" near Lloyd. Really? SInce when is it inappropriate to throw a baseball at a baseball diamond or, as in this case, in a designated bullpen area where Migilaccio, the catcher, was warming up the pitcher, and accidentally overthrew the pitcher, hitting Lloyd. That's a new one on me.

If that weren't enough, Lloyd's husband is giving Migliaccio and his middle-school buddies a sex-ed lesson in the third count, as he is suing for the loss of "services, society and consortium" of his wife.

Lloyd and her husband are seeking $150,000 to cover medical costs and an undefined amount for pain and suffering. From a middle-school boy who was just playing a baseball game.

Having been involved in a potential lawsuit (almost as frivolous as this one) a few years ago while on the board of my local Little League, I know that people get very upset and want someone to blame when they get hurt or their property is damaged at a baseball -- or another sporting -- event. It's the "New American Way." In my local case, an 11-year-old player (hmm, maybe it's only Majors Division players who get in this pickle?) fouled off a ball at an All-Star practice. The ball shattered the back windshield of another player's uncle's car. I can still see the windshield bending inward and then shattering, clear as day in my mind. I can also hear the uncle's immediate reaction, "Someone's going to pay for this!" and his ranting and raving at the poor boy for several minutes after the incident. Luckily, several parents, me included, stepped in and said, "It's your own fault. Anyone who knows baseball knows you don't park your car next to the third-base line. Why do you think there were no other cars parked there?" He didn't quite agree, but i think the number of people who surrounded him and let him know his 'blame-placing' was crazy helped diffuse the situation. Thank goodness.

When players in a game are injured, whether it's baseball or soccer or football, we say there's an "assumption of risk" taken by the player and the parents of the player for participating in the game. But what about the spectators at the game and those simply in the vicinity of the game? I think there's an assumption of risk there, too. I've been hit by a foul ball -- in the forehead -- at a baseball game, becuase I was walking by and wasn't paying attention. My sunglasses broke. I had a headache for a few days. My bad. I did not even CONSIDER suing our league. I assumed the risk simply by walking past the field.

Spectators at, as well as others sitting nearby, a sporting event need to recognize their surroundings, assume the risk, and if something happens, say, "It was an accident." Stop suing kids playing sports. Really...they are there to play, not to hurt people nearby.  

In the Lloyd vs. Migliaccio case, I don't fault Little League International for not throwing their legal resources into defending the Migliaccios (can you imagine the can of worms that would open?), but I do fault them for not coming out publicly to support the boys and girls in Little League who play baseball and do their best to throw the ball, catch the ball, and play the game. I find it incredibly difficult, impossible even, to believe that an 11-year-old catcher took specific aim at a woman sitting at a picnic bench and intentionally overthrew the pitcher whom he was warming up -- for a game -- so as to injure the woman.

And I'm virtually 100% certain both Manchester Little League and Little League International feel the same way.

They need to step up to the plate and say it.