Ethics Quiz: Should Shannon Stone’s Family Sue the Texas Rangers?

One Thursday, a 39-year-old firefighter named Shannon Stone leaned over a stadium railing at a Texas Rangers game to catch a ball flipped into the stands by Ranger outfielder Josh Hamilton.  Stone’s son, 6-year old Cooper, was a big Hamilton fan, and the devoted father made an extra effort, catching the ball but falling over the railing down to the concrete 20 feet below. He went into cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital, and died.

The railing where Stone fell is 33 inches, seven inches more that the legally required 26 inches. Why is it that short? So people sitting in the front row can see the game without having to look through the railing. Is it dangerous? Well, it was dangerous this time.

Everyone, naturally, is horrified by the tragedy. The Rangers held a moment of silence for the firefighter at the game last night. Hamilton, who like all major league players has been instructed to toss inning-ending balls and retrieved fouls into the stands for fans to catch as souvenirs, is understandably distraught.

Your Ethics Quiz: Should the Stone family sue the Rangers?

The first question should be, perhaps, will they? I will be shocked if they don’t, and will award them an Ethics Hero if that is the case. I am sure they are getting advice that a lawsuit would be a slam dunk, with a big pay-off. A firefighter? A father killed before the eyes of his 6-year old son? Media coverage emphasizing how the railing “didn’t come up to Cooper’s waist”? “Think of Cooper’s future,” the advisors are saying. “What jury wouldn’t want to give him money?”

Meanwhile, the Barn Door Fallacy is in full swing. Articles about ballpark safety are popping up all over the media. Never mind that in thousands upon thousands of Major League games, with all the balls thrown into the stands, all of the fouls and home runs hit in or near the stands for more than a century, this has never happened before. The drumbeats for higher railings in every park will be irresistible, because the family of next fan to be injured this way, no matter when or why, will be able to argue that the teams were on notice: look what happened to Shannon Stone.

Already, the media muckrakers are pointing fingers at baseball management for this tragedy. The accident was foreseeable, they say—the magic words for trial lawyers, blood in the water. Yes, any accident is foreseeable after it has occurred. Mike Florio, an NBC columnist who operates as a fan advocate, has written that whopping damages need to be levied by a jury on the Rangers so that clubs will do their duty, or what Florio thinks should be their duty, to protect fans. Raise the railings. Eliminate front rows. Add ledges to catch the one fan every century who falls over the railing. And when the next fan makes a rash decision that gets him killed, maybe put up glass walls, or electric fences. That concrete is dangerous: make ballparks use that spongy stuff they use on playgrounds now. And after that doesn’t work, maybe, for their own protection, fans should be strapped into their seats like on amusement park rides. Each fan would have a buzzer so an usher could release them to go to the bathroom. Or make all fans wear helmets. That would have saved Stone.

The answer to the quiz is no, the Stone family shouldn’t sue the Rangers, though it is virtually certain that they will, or perhaps threaten to sue (also known as “legal extortion”) so the Rangers will pay some kind of seven figure settlement. I don’t want to be too cynical, but all the Ranger releases about the players seeking grief counseling and the expressions of grief coming out of the executive offices tells me that the club is doing everything it can to avoid being cast as the villain in the story, which is what the public and media’s natural inclination would be to do. All the focus is on the welfare of the little boy and Stone’s family, and that creates the perfect rationalization to make a corporation assume financial responsibility for the father’s death. And the tort system in America is set up to make that easy. I am not a foe of the civil justice system, but this is the kind of scenario that causes it to malfunction badly.

The party responsible for the tragedy was not Josh Hamilton for throwing the ball short (players are instructed to toss the ball deep in the stands, but the father called to him to toss the ball for his boy), and not the Rangers for having a railing that was plenty high enough to keep anyone from falling over it who wasn’t being reckless, but Shannon Stone, who may well have pondered, on his way down, that all in all his boy would rather have had a Dad than a baseball. Stone made a terrible, irresponsible decision, and paid with his life and his family’s future, but he made it. The tort system is often used to transfer the financial responsibility for misfortune to deep pockets, but this practice is unethical unless the party being held liable was genuinely negligent. I am absolute certain that a skilled Texas trial lawyer—and Texas is full of them—will have a jury weeping about how an evil and heartless business created a trap that killed poor little Cooper Stone’s father, and the winning theory will be that the accident was “foreseeable.” It will work. The money is ripe for the taking.

It’s still wrong. Accidents happen, good people make stupid, life-altering mistakes, and the law shouldn’t be used to make one party’s tragedy an innocent party’s burden. Cooper Stone will get a trust fund, and all over baseball the railings will be raised, and the front rows will be eliminated, and and there will announcements on the jumbotron every inning reminding fans NOT to kill themselves going after balls, and the enjoyment of the game of a million fans will be diminished while they pay higher ticket prices, because for one fatal instant, a father who knew better threw his life away for a twenty-dollar ball.

I am sorry that his wife and son have to suffer for his mistake. But it was his mistake, and the Texas Rangers and the fans who wouldn’t hurl themselves over a railing to catch a ball should not be punished for it.

(You can take Part II of the Shannon Stone Tragedy Ethics Quiz here.)

33 Comments

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33 responses to “Ethics Quiz: Should Shannon Stone’s Family Sue the Texas Rangers?

  1. I agree with your overall assessment, but your presentation comes across as a little callous, with your constant repetition of the words “decision” and “mistake.” He didn’t decide to toss himself over the railing, he just leaned a little too far and lost his balance. Blaming the owners of the environment in which the an accident incidentally occurred is wrong, but so is blaming the victim of that accident. It was, after all, an accident. It wasn’t the ball club’s fault, but it wasn’t Stone’s fault, either. It was just a terrible, momentary tragedy, and no one has to be blamed in order to give an ethical response to it.

    • Point taken….it’s an accident. So are auto accidents, which are almost invariably caused by someone’s momentary bad judgment. An accident without a mistake would be if a foul ball ricocheted off a seat, hit him and knocked him off balance, over the rail, Stone leaned over a rail to catch a ball, and that’s taking a risk. He mistakenly assumed that he wasn’t too far over. He’d tell you himself that he goofed. I do stupid things all the time; luckily none has killed me. But that’s just luck.

      • Eric

        Not all accidents are caused by someone’s momentary bad judgement. Did you think about that before writing it, or do you actually believe it?

        • Did I say all accidents? I don’t think so. I know I said that auto accidents are caused by bad judgment, and I should have said “almost always.” Does it matter? THIS accident was caused by bad judgment.

    • Karen Bayer

      I totally agree with Edward Carney. It was just an accident. Everyone has lost his or her footing/ balance one time or another. This time, for Shannon Stone, happened to be fatal. He leaned a little too far to catch a ball for his son. I do not think he would have leaned that far if it had not been for his son. He died for the love of his son. I would not call it a mistake or poor decision. It was a pure tragedy. A very sad story.

      • This is called “denial.” Of course it is a tragedy, but leaning so far over a railing that you fall over it is known as “a mistake.” That’s not an insult; everyone makes them. Sometimes they get you killed.

        Your comment that he tried too hard for his son proves it. The good intentions overcame his good judgment…that’s called ‘misjudgment” which is called ” a mistake.” We don’t do any good by denying the truth because obscuring it makes us feel better.

  2. Marlene Cohn

    When people seek compensation for damages in these types of situations, it really does highlight that there are different types of accidents. I tripped over my own foot once. That was an accident. Another time I closed a Swiss Army knife on my finger (The Girl Scouts eventually stopped letting me have Swiss Army knives). It was an accident, but one caused by some pretty reckless behavior on my part. I feel terrible for this man and his family, but rewarding them a large sum of money for a death caused by something most people’s sense of self-preservation would prevent them from doing seems like a terrific way of mitigating any personal responsibility for our own faults.

  3. More thoughts: There are three situations with accidents, which just mean that they weren’t intentional: nobody was at fault, one of the party’s was at fault, and everybody was at fault. The rarest, by far, is #1, and saying a victim was at fault for an accident is not callous, unless the truth is callous. I had a room mate in law school, a good friend, who was killed as he tried to lower himself from the roof into a 10th floor window of an apartment that he had been locked out of in a dispute with a landlord. In the rain. He used a rope to lower himself, and he slipped, falling to the pavement. Now, slipping in the rain was accidental, but he chose to try this risky stunt, in the rain, 10 floors up. He was an ex-marine and was very skilled, but he took a needless risk where the price of a mistake would be serious injury of death. He was to blame for his own death. So was Stone. I won’t go near railings by high places, and I’m not getting killed that way. That’s my choice, and the safe one. If someone gets himself killed taking the opposite choice, well, it was a bad choice, because the risk (death) wasn’t equal to the reward (a ball to give to his son). If he agreed with assessment, then it’s his fault for taking what he knew was a bad risk. If he didn’t—if he thought the ball was worth getting killed for, then he made an objectively idiotic choice. I assume option one, which is that he knew it was a bad risk, and in the heat of the moment, took it anyway, that is, made a dumb choice. How can we say that he isn’t at fault?

    • “If he agreed with [this] assessment, then it’s his fault for taking what he knew was a bad risk. If he didn’t—if he thought the ball was worth getting killed for, then he made an objectively idiotic choice.”

      Jack, do you really think these are the only two options? Isn’t it vaguely possible that he didn’t recognize that it was a bad risk and thought he was just reaching for a ball that he could catch if he stretched his arm? Admittedly, I wasn’t there and I haven’t seen footage of his fatal attempt, but I’m just assuming that he didn’t, say, lock his ankles onto the guard rail and lean out perpendicular to the wall. I’m also assuming that you weren’t there, either. In absence of absolutely all of the facts, I just think it might be ethically better to give the dead man the benefit of the doubt. In his attempt to reach the ball, he may not have had time to recognize the risk and draw back. The decision that he probably made was to reach for the ball, not to put his life on the line. What’s more, I think it’s slightly possible that, ceteris peribus, it wasn’t that great of a risk. Maybe the floor underneath him was wet, and his foot slipped, causing him to lunge farther and faster than he would have of his own accord. I don’t know. I just know I’m not quick to call a man who died in an accident that I didn’t witness reckless, irresponsible, and stupid.

      But you know what? It might very well have been his fault. He may have known full well what he was doing, with no outside influences contributing to the accident, which occurred because he willfully risked his life. Acknowledging that truth is not what I take issue with. As I think I made clear above, I take issue with not recognizing that it could have been otherwise. And more than that, what bothers me is the appearance that you, and Peter below, are apparently using this tragedy as an opportunity to malign the overall character to Shannon Stone, and to take pot shots at him. And why? Because it paints him in a sufficiently negative light to make the ethical innocence of the Texas Rangers seem more apparent? Because it helps to counteract the emotional aspect of the initial story, which may well muddle people’s rational response to it?

      I’ve read back through your original post, and I’d like to reiterate that it’s not so much your perspective that I take issue with as you language. Language like:

      “Shannon Stone… may well have pondered, on his way down, that all in all his boy would rather have had a Dad than a baseball.”

      “Stone made a terrible, irresponsible decision, and paid with his life and his family’s future…”

      “…a father who knew better threw his life away for a twenty-dollar ball.”

      “…there will announcements… reminding fans NOT to kill themselves going after balls”

      “…the fans who wouldn’t hurl themselves over a railing to catch a ball should not be punished…”

      Jack, NOBODY would “hurl himself over a railing to catch a ball.” But ANYBODY could miscalculate, misjudge, or just trip, and fall to his death. Is it really necessary to your argument that you ascribe the fact that this sort of accident has never occurred before to Shannon Stone’s being uncommonly idiotic, rather than accepting that he may have just been uncommonly unfortunate? After all, whichever it is, the man is dead, and thus not able to defend himself. In light of that, I think the more ethical action is to not rashly drawn the conclusion that reflects most badly on him.

      • I think the purpose of the post deserves fair context. That was–”should the Rangers pay for the tragedy, or is it the responsibility of the victim to accept responsibility for his mistake?” A baseball game is not a dangerous activity for spectators. Res ipsa loquitur—if someone dies watching a game, someone has done something very careless. I like your post a lot, but I dispute the contention that It impugns Stone in any way. Saying someone made a dumb mistake or too a poor risk does not implicate character…not to me. In the heat of the moment, Stone sis not think through his risk-reward ratio. A basic duty of a parent of a young child is to stay alive.

        I never said that he made an idiotic choice; I doubt that. He made a bad choice by definition. How is this different from a child chasing a ball into the street? We teach kids not to do that…why? Because it’s dangerous, and a ball isn’t worth the risk. In “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” Indy’s love interest dies trying to retrieve the Holy Grail, and Indy nearly does too, in the heat of the moment. But his father says ….”Let it go.”

        IF he slipped, then the stadium IS liable. No account says that . Every account says he impulsively reached too far and too fast for the ball, and lost his balance. He should have let it go. Obviously.

  4. That pretty well sums up the issue, Jack. As for lawyers; well, I don’t know about Dallas, but Houston’s overflowing with them. If they were all to leave tomorrow (happy thought!) it would be a disaster for property owners, as half the office space downtown would go empty.

  5. Peter

    Well, as they say, “caveat emptor,” where the “emptor,” or the buyer is the buyer of experiences, decisions, or in this case an errant baseball. This whole issue puts in relief what is wrong in our American society today: that somebody else (i.e. a big corporation, big government, or somebody else with deep pockets, taxpayers, etc.) is at fault rather than the individual who makes his or her own stupid decision. In America as it was, the true America of our forefathers, nobody would think of suing the Rangers for his own stupidity, because the concept of personal responsibility and personal accountability were still intact in those bygone days. Callous, schmallous. Learn to live with the truth, and by the way, if you can’t, then do the rest of us a favor, and don’t vote.

    • Unless the bygone days you’re referring to are the 1970s, I’d say that you’re absolutely right that no one would have thought of suing the Rangers, because the team didn’t exist. But I’ll assume that what you mean is that there was a time in American history when no one would have thought of seeking financial compensation from any corporate entity for an accident that wasn’t demonstrably that entity’s fault. That claim is probably a little difficult to back up. I welcome you to cite a date when this “true America” existed, and justify the assertion. However, in absence of proof, if you’re free to assert that there was a time when people didn’t think about suing anyone frivolously, I’ll go ahead and assert that there was another “true America” in which no one would think of calling a person stupid for losing his balance and falling to his death. I’ll say that back then, the terms “personal responsibility” and “personal accountability” weren’t bandied about as convenient ways to justify one’s own lack of empathy. And if you are so divorced from humanity that you don’t bristle at the notion of maligning a child’s deceased father, don’t you dare presume to tell me who should and should not vote.

      • Jack, you seem to have come under the mistaken impression that my more combative reply was directed at you or your original post. I’m sure WordPress doesn’t indicate where a reply appears in a thread of comments, so that’s really my mistake for not addressing Peter by name. Sorry.

        I was thus not putting words in your mouth, but quoting his, as he actually referred to a “true America” of “bygone days,” and instructed people who can’t “learn to live with” his “truth” to not vote.

        Given the miscommunication, I’m not sure on what points you and I are still at odds. I appreciated your response to the other comment I had made today, and thought the analogies you presented were useful. I still felt that you had perhaps unwittingly impugned Stone as a person, but I recognized that our disagreements had been aired, and was hopeful that your earlier comment would have closed the matter.

        Ergo, if we’re going to continue to talk about ethics and baseball games, can we just talk about this?:
        [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6locBvdMJtw&w=425&h=349%5D

        • No, My fault, Ed—I made a stupid mistake and didn’t read the reply to line. I apologize. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever done that. you weren’t putting words in my mouth when you weren’t quoting me. I wondered about the two posts…I thought you might be a multiple personality.

      • Peter

        “… back then, the terms “personal responsibility” and “personal accountability” weren’t bandied about as convenient ways to justify one’s own lack of empathy.” I really don’t know by what twisted sense of logic you concluded that such were my sentiments, never mind my expressed statement. Empathy has nothing to do with one’s accountability for one’s own actions. One can make stupid decisions (those who haven’t may cast the first stone), and still be a worthy human being.

        The fact that such terms as “personal responsibility” and “personal accountability” have come into current discussions has more to do with current-day need to remind people of matters that were formerly taken for granted. If things are taken for granted, they tend not to be discussed, after all.

        This matter of “maligning a dead child’s father,” even if there had been such expressed sentiment in my response, and connecting it with being “divorced from humanity” is, of course, a cheap shot, manipulative, intellectually bankrupt and immature. All of these characteristics, ipso facto, call into question the maturity required for one to be given the privilege of voting on matters serious enough to deprive others of their liberty and property. These are, after all, the powers granted to those who elect representatives who tax and otherwise wield the police powers of the state.

  6. Becky

    Contributory negligence. It doesn’t involve anything other than the fact that if you hadn’t done something that went horribly wrong, nothing bad would have happened. I’ll bet the guy didn’t know he was doing anything that could kill him until it was way too late. I, like Marlene above, have some contributory negligence issues in my past (and my future, I’m sure). Alas, this family now has no Shannon in it. Because of contributory negligence.

    Sticking to the ethics of potential lawsuits against the Rangers and the ballpark, technically it’s unethical to sue, but emotions will probably win. I served on a jury (civil) and believed contributory negligence was the overriding factor in the case. If the plaintiff had LOOKED WHERE SHE PUT HER FEET, she would not have fallen off the bus and been injured at all. I don’t always watch where I put my feet, ergo I sometimes fall when I shouldn’t. It’s awful that this family has such a tragedy to deal with, but in strictly legal parlance, contributory negligence is why he’s dead.

  7. The question that intrigues me—how much of the reaction is due to the fact that it was a father, with his young son present, who was in a heroic and popular profession? If Stone had been a bartender there with his dyed-blond girlfriend, would the outpouring of sympathy be the same? Because, you know, the results to the fan are exactly the same no matter what he does or what his family is.

  8. Eugene horton

    I do believe there is genuine grief throughout the Texas Ranger organization. I truly hope Josh Hamilton does not suffer a setback. I have thoroughly enjoyed following his comeback, overcoming demons to become MVP. The Rangers PR team is at work now, trying to make certain they are seen as compassionate good guys. What concerns me is that after a brief period of time, due to our short attention span, the story will begin to fade.The best result I can imagine is the Rangers making a fair offer, a settlement is agreed upon, and a trial is avoided. A mother has lost her husband, a child has lost his father, and a family has lost it’s primary provider. It would be good to know that Jenny and Cooper Stone will be comfortable, financially, at least. Hopefully, something fairly simple could be installed for safety, such as a trough like ledge to catch a fan going over the railing. All teams can have engineers work on that. A lawsuit seems possible, if not probable. Imagine a jury hearing the tragic case. Emotions could sway them to award a lottery type settlement. perhaps they start a foundation,or donate liberally to a life saving cause. Perhaps not. We can hope and pray that something good comes of it all.

    • Peter

      I feel compelled to comment, and will try to do so with clarity and compassion. I believe that your contention that the Rangers should make a “fair offer” wrongly infers that the Rangers, their managent, the overseers of the stadium are in any way at fault. As I understand from Jack’s narrative, the guard rails exceeded the required standards for safety, the stadium floor was not wet, and there was nothing that could remotely be considered a liability on their part. One must avoid the belief that “whoever has the deep pockets” must pay, regardless of the fault or lack of it in the case in question. The fact that the “Rangers PR team is at work now, trying to make certain they are seen as compassionate good guys” reflects the need to counter this unfortunate but prevalent belief in America today. If Mr. Stone failed to obtain life insurance on himself for this eventuality, are the Rangers, or we, the public (in the form of higher ticket prices for stadium liability insurance, reengineering guard rails, placing “trough-like ledges” and the like), expected to cover these costs on his behalf? Where does it stop? What is usually forgotten in these circumstances is the costs to the “hidden man,” usually the “hidden many.” There is a common belief that “it’s only a couple of dollars,” but when added to the costs of tickets that 100s of thousands will pay, it will be noticed. But again, the fundamental question is one of fairness, or justice. Is it fair, or just, to ask of those who are not at fault, or, to be accurate, to demand involutarily of them, that they compensate the unfortunate victims of another man’s decisions?

    • There is nothing good that can come of this at all. The Rangers shouldn’t have to shell out millions because an accident that wasn’t the team’s fault happened in their stadium to an overly enthusiastic fan, but reality is that they do have to, because too many people believe that it is the duty of big, bad corporations to pay for any misfortune that involves them in any way. A shelf or a trough, multiplied a hundred times in all the ballparks is an absurd and unnecessary expense….a “don’t lean over the rails, and if you do, you’re on your own” announcement and sign should be sufficient in a sane and ethical environment. Baseball, the Rangers and stadium designers didn’t take the Stone Family’s father away–he did that himself.

  9. If you decide to walk down your stairs and lose your balance and fall it is not a “terrible, irresponsible decision” that leads to your injury, it is an accident. Shannon Stone tried to catch a ball and fell.He was not engaging in a reckless jump for the ball he just leaned a little bit too far. I do not believe he thought he was endangering himself. It probably never entered his mind that he might fall. Therefore, he did not weigh the options then decide to take the chance.

    Concerning your point that “in thousands upon thousands of Major League games, with all the balls thrown into the stands, all of the fouls and home runs hit in or near the stands for more than a century, this has never happened before.” do you mean that no one has ever died or that no one has ever fallen? A Google search shows that many have fallen. Here are links to two rather recent incidents, http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26453891/ns/today-today_people/t/baseball-fan-takes-plunge-comes-ball/, http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26453891/ns/today-today_people/t/baseball-fan-takes-plunge-comes-ball/. Clearly there is a problem that needs to be addressed. I hope that the family will not sue. Constructing new ball parks with a walkway in front of the rail instead of a row of seats would solve the problem. The row at the rail could be roped off at existing ball parks. Yes, that would cost money but would ensure fan safety. Thanks for a great discussion. I agree with most of what you wrote.

    • (Those were the same incident, put out twice.)
      I’ve seen fans fall out of the stands going after balls. I’ve never found an incident where one was killed. There is NOT a serious problem, and this is not like falling down stairs. “Don’t lean over railings to catch balls.” Seems pretty simple to me.

    • Mr. Stone fell because he made a macho, selfish move. The ball was throw directly to the man in the white shirt seated on the other side of his son. Stone not only reached in front of his son, but also in front of the man with the glove in an attempt to get the ball for himself and his son.
      Perhaps the culture of America, which promotes “rugged individualism” and rewards aggressive behavior is at fault. Every day I watch a baseball game on television and see men scrambling over seats and each other to get to a foul ball. Winning (getting the ball) is highly valued in this country. Perhaps in other societies, such as Japan where people respect social rules more, this would not have occurred.

  10. tyson williams

    No one deserves to go to the ballpark anywhere and die. It was extremely cold of you to sarcastically imagine what his thought process should of been as he was falling to his death! His son is probably going to have mental problems from the ordeal as it is. I already came up with a mechanical solution to the problem after only thinking about for several hours that would have prevented this and not impair the vision of the fans. If I can come up with a solution, surely their engineers could have done the same thing. Falling down YOUR stairs at home is completely different than falling in a public facility. Rangers will pay. He was 39 years old and the family is without the major wage earner now. That needs to be addressed……………

    • Wonderful comment, Tyler— that is a perfect illustration of the flawed ethics and logic that our society is prey to. Very useful and illustrative.
      1) Nobody, especially me, said he deserved to die. I said he was responsible for the consequences of his own mistake and subsequent accident, nobody else. Being accountable and deserving misfortune are not even close to the same thing. No wonder you are confused.
      2) How is speculating on anyone’s thoughts “cold”? This ain’t the Oprah show. I am suggesting, correctly, that HE knew he had made bad choice. How could he not? I doubt he was thinking, “wow, I have a ball for my kid” or “that Hamilton is a swell guy” or “Go Rangers.”
      3) His son’s problems are sad but irrelevant to allocating responsibility. The analysis should be the same whether Stone had a son or not, whether he was a firefighter or not, whether he was a great guy or not.
      4) It’s always easy to come up with a solution after the fact. If it was so easy, why didn’t you come up with the solution before Stone’s accident? Hey–YOU are at fault!
      5) I didn’t compare my stairs to Ranger Park, a mistaken commenter did. Argue the point with her. But a careless act that get one hurt is the same, no matter where it occurs.
      6) “He was 39 years old and the family is without the major wage earner now. That needs to be addressed”—then start a fund. You really think companies exist to be held responsible and pay for every misfortune that befalls individuals, even if it was their own fault? That’s “fair” to you? The cost of one fan’s bad decision should be paid for by everyone else? How do people end up thinking this way?

  11. Jason G

    After watching the video, the 1st thing that sprang to mind was that this ‘accident’ was entirely preventable from the standpoint of the Rangers.
    I see no reason why a 3 foot wide gap, with a drop of 20 feet, separating the stands and the field, wasn’t covered in some manner. Watch the video and judge for yourself. Regardless of any ‘bad choice’ on the victims part, if the death was preventable, is it ethical to blame both parties?

    Unless there is some technical reason why the gap had to be left exposed, and coming from a family in the construction industry I can’t see any. Then the facility managers should have taken steps to prevent any unfortunate accidents ahead of time. Companies are well versed in preventative measures these days, entire divisions exist whose sole purpose is nothing more than spotting legal traps like this one. So coming at this from a defense standpoint, being something that was forseeable (on their part) and preventable…

    Look, I’m sick of seeing all the BS lawsuits, like the guy who didn’t expect his coffee to be hot and the lady that thought her RV’s cruise control was auto-pilot et al myself, but I don’t let that personal feeling shade my objectiveness, same as his being a father has no relevance. Just looking at the facts. Fact is Ranger stadium could have easily prevented this accident from occuring, without having to raise the rails. The industry knows full well that falls from the stands happen from time to time and being cautious then would have been a lot better than PR management now.

    So watch the video and judge for yourself. Yes he made a careless choice to reach for the ball, most likely he didn’t expect to die, as this wasn’t the 1st time he’d done so, the impact of the ball could’ve knocked him off balance just enough. Now having a cover over the gap might not have saved him, but it would have 100% removed the liabiliy from the facility.

    They decided, for whatever reasons, be it finacial or lack of forsight, not to take those preventative measures. There for, large corporation or not, they are in fact liable.

    • Great analysis, and I can’t disagree. Certainly under current tort liability law, the Rangers are liable and negligent. I think, however, when someone’s rash and reckless act leads to a death that normal caution would have prevented, that should preclude seeking full compensation from another party.

  12. Jason G

    Indeed, and I was very happy to hear that the family wouldn’t be suing in this case. They had all the power here and have fortunately had the forethought that any action they took would undoubtedly led to diminsished enjoyment for future generations. If only more of us were willing to not be blinded by emotions and greed/monetary punishment then the legal system would be much cleaner. Sadly we live in a culture of blame. While I can identify a potential legal reason why they could be held responsible, that should in no way remove the responsibility of the individual and that of society on a whole. Common sense seems to have won this time.

  13. Andy

    I am not a lawyer, nor studied law, I am just using some common sense. If an organization, such as the Rangers, want to hold events at a public place, such as a baseball stadium, and invite the public to such public place, they should take responsibility to protect the public, or as I call it “dummy proof” the place to the best of their ability. Install railings where needed and as high as needed to protect the public. Install stair railings to avoid slips and falls. Place large, readable signs that warn the public of dangers. Keep the flooring dry at all times (except during a rain shower) to avoid slips. This also includes covering up a “crevasse like” opening where the public, the fans, can potentially fall into and seriously injury themselves. Accidents happen, by misjudgement, stupidity or at no one’s fault, and the Ranger’s stadium management cannot think of everything. BUT, they should try their best. Cover up that opening, and at most (that I can think of at the moment), install some netting similar to what is used for circus acrobatic acts. My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to the Stone family, the Rangers organization and the public for this unfortunate tragedy.

    • All true, except that

      1) You can never make anything dummy proof.
      2) The appearance that reckless acts will be safe is itself an invitation to recklessness
      3) The fact that this is a good approach doesn’t answer the question of how much a team is obligated to do under tort law. Is a sign that says, “Don’t lean over the rail like an idiot” enough? If you really have to put up signs telling people not to risk their lives, where does it end?
      4) In law, the key question is usually, “What is reasonable,” and the definition will inevitably be: “What is reasonable is what will keep you from getting sued.” By that standard, yes, it would be reasonable for the Rangers to have a higher rail, and maybe to cover it with broken bottles.

  14. Brunot

    I agree with the author. He used poor judgement. People do it every day. If you eliminate the consequences (partially, at least) of those dumb decisions you are bound to only have more of them.

  15. John Burgeson

    Clearly, the family should sue and clearly, a reasonable jury should award them millions of dollars. Baseball stadiums are filled with exuberant fans who lean over railings to snag balls. The architect must know this, so why was a 33-inch railing specified? It does not even reach the top of the femur of a grown man and it isn’t going to stop him from flipping over the top and falling to the concrete below. It also ignores the fact that for most adults and teenagers, the center of gravity is well north of that 33-inch mark.
    This is a colossal, obvious and dangerous error in judgement. A simple physics calculation indicates that Mr. Stone quite likely hit the floor below at a speed of about 26 mph, assuming a 4 m/s angular velocity as he was flipping over the top.
    If you’re a father sitting in the stands next to your 9-year-old son, and the lad’s hero tosses a ball to to you, you’re going to reach out to catch it. It’s a choice that most fathers, in the heat of the moment, would make.
    This was not Mr. Stone’s fault, nor was it Mr. Hamilton’s fault. It was the fault of the Texas Ranger organization. A 48-inch railing would have prevented this tragedy.

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