Lawsuit seeks to have MLB extend safety netting to foul poles

Fenway Park fan hit with broken bat

Boston Red Sox fan Tonya Carpenter is taken away on a stretcher after getting hit in the head with a broken bat during a game against the Oakland Athletics at Fenway Park on June 5.

(Charles Krupa / Associated Press)

A federal lawsuit is seeking to have protective netting extended to the foul poles at major league ballparks.

The lawsuit, which was filed against Major League Baseball in San Francisco on Monday, is trying to force MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to install protective netting in front of fans sitting beyond foul-ball territory. Currently, netting is used in sections near home plate.

The suit, filed on behalf of Oakland Athletics season-ticket holder Gail Payne and other baseball ticket holders, does not seek monetary damages.

“Every type of fan is constantly at risk of serious injury or death,” said Robert Hilliard, one of the lawyers involved in the case. “If that foul ball is hit hard enough, reaction time is basically zero and life-threatening injury is certain. This is a needless risk. Extending the nets will, as a fact, save lives.”


In a statement to the Associated Press, the MLB commissioner’s office said fan safety remains their foremost goal.

“Major League Baseball is in the process of reevaluating all issues pertaining to fan safety, comfort and expectations,” the statement said.

The lawsuit states Payne and her family feel they are at risk for injury since their seats on the first-base line at Coliseum in Oakland are not shielded by protective netting.

"[Payne] is constantly ducking and weaving to avoid getting hit by foul balls or shattered bats,” the lawsuit states.


A Boston Red Sox fan suffered life-threatening injuries last month when she was hit by a broken bat during a game against the Athletics at Fenway Park.

Tonya Carpenter, 44, suffered a significant amount of blood loss when she was hit in the head with a broken bat from Athletics third baseman Brett Lawrie on June 5. Carpenter spent a week in the hospital before being released to a rehabilitation facility.

In the wake of the incident, Manfred said baseball would take a closer look a fan safety.

“When you have an issue like this, an incident like this, you have to go back and reevaluate where you are on all of your safety issues and, trust me, we will do that. Just like we are on a variety of issues right now at the beginning of my tenure,” Manfred said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.