An Illinois Appellate Court on Tuesday, March 16th, 2021, held that a young woman hit in the face and injured by a foul ball at Wrigley Field may move forward with her civil lawsuit for damages and is not limited to arbitration against Major League Baseball.
In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Fitzgerald Smith, the appellate court affirmed the decision of the trial court that “the arbitration provision was effectively ‘hidden in a maze of fine print, unable to be appreciated by the Plaintiff,’” as stated by the trial court. Justices Terrence Lavin and Aurelia Pucinkski affirmed the opinion on the First District panel.
Laiah Zuniga, 28, attended the Chicago Cubs game on Aug. 28, 2018, when a foul ball struck her in the face, knocking her unconscious, creating permanent and severe head and facial injuries. MLB had announced earlier that year that all 30 stadiums would have netting that reached the far end of each dugout.
Zuniga sued MLB for negligence after obtaining the ticket to the game from her father after he won it at a raffle. She said she never read any fine print on the ticket or visited the Cubs website regarding any language regarding injuries sustained at the ballpark.
The appellate court held that “factors exist in this case that make the arbitration provision difficult or onerous to find or obtain at the time of using the ticket such that we cannot fairly say that the plaintiff was aware of what she was agreeing to. Principal among these factors is the fact that the paper ticket possessed by the plaintiff did not contain the actual terms and conditions of the contract, but merely contained a summary of the terms and conditions and informed ticket holders that they had to either access a website or visit the Cub’s administrative offices to obtain and read the full terms and conditions they were purportedly agreeing to, including the 8-paragraph arbitration provision.”
The appellate court went on to say that to access this language, one must have a cellular device, internet connection and the ability to read it likely when entering the stadium amidst a great deal of commotion which, when printed is four and a half single spaced pages.
“The likelihood that a ticket holder will actually find, obtain, and read the full arbitration provision by accessing the Cubs’s website or visiting the administrative office is diminished even further by the fact that minimal effort is made on the ticket itself to draw a ticket holder’s attention to the need to do one of these things in order to understand that they are agreeing to binding arbitration by using the ticket to enter Wrigley Field.”
Tracy Brammeier, associate at Clifford Law Offices, is handling this matter at the firm and successfully argued the matter before the Illinois Appellate Court.
For further information, please contact Clifford Law Offices Communications Partner Pamela Sakowicz Menaker at 847-721-0909 (cell).