Case Synopsis: Plaintiff was playing in a slow-pitch game. Incident occurred in the evening at approximately 7:15 pm. The game was under the auspices of the City’s Parks and Recreation Department. During the sixth inning, while playing catcher, approximately six feet behind home plate, the plaintiff went to catch a pop foul ball and subsequently caught her foot on the wire gauge side panel of the backstop, which was curled at the bottom. This panel was parallel to the third base line. The curling was due to the fact that players hit the balls into the fencing material. Over time this creates a bowing effect and the tines of the fence at the bottom will create a hazard for players by either protruding or not being vertical to the anchor metal pipe at the bottom of the backstop. Plaintiff caught her left foot on the wire, and fell to the ground. In doing so, she fractured her ankle severely. She required nine screws during surgery for the repair of the ankle.
Expert Analysis: Plaintiff met with the expert at the field in question and was able to demonstrate how the fall occurred. Additionally, measurements were taken of the set-back distances off home plate and the third base line regarding the appropriate distance for a softball backstop. It is well documented in sports/physical education literature and rule books on softball backstops that the setback should be twenty-five feet. In measuring the setback distance, the actual measurement was just over twenty-four feet, and as such, did not conform to industry’s standard of care. Site observation revealed that another field diagonally opposite the field in question did comply with the industry’s standard of care. The plans and specifications for the incident field did cite twenty-five feet.
Result: Case settled at pre-trial conference.
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