Cubs dropped as defendant by suing fan blinded by foul ball at Wrigley; case against MLB continues

The Chicago Cubs have been dismissed from a lawsuit filed against the team by a fan blinded by a foul ball at Wrigley Field, but the ruling by a Cook County judge on Wednesday doesn’t mean the case is closed.

The team and Major League Baseball were sued last fall over the injury, but both organizations petitioned the court to drop them from the lawsuit. This week, Cook County Judge John Callahan Jr. sided with the Cubs, saying the injured man and his legal team had failed to adequately show the team acted recklessly, according to an attorney for the fan.

Major League Baseball remains a defendant in the lawsuit, which will go forward. And the attorney for John “Jay” Loos, the Schaumburg man who filed the negligence lawsuit, will have another chance to make the case that the Cubs should be a defendant because the team “willfully and wantonly” failed to erect safety netting despite knowing of the injury risk to fans.

Lawsuits brought by injured fans against MLB rarely succeed. Last year, a federal judge in California threw out a class-action lawsuit against the league filed by two fans who sought more protective netting at ballparks. The judge ruled they had failed to prove they and other fans faced a high enough risk of injury.

Loos’ attorney, Colin Dunn, said he thought this might be a good sign for his client.

“It means if we prove our facts, then we win at trial,” Dunn said.

Loos, 60, was blinded in his left eye when he was hit by a foul ball while sitting in an outfield section along the first base line at Wrigley Field in late August.

The debate over increased safety was reignited in September when a little girl was hit by a rocketing foul ball at Yankee Stadium, prompting MLB’s commissioner, Rob Manfred, to say the league is looking again at extending protective netting.

Last month, the league announced all 30 teams would have netting extended at least all the way to the dugout for the 2018 season.

Not only have judges across the country frequently thrown out such lawsuits, but Illinois is one of four states where the legislature enshrined into law the so-called “baseball rule,” which absolves stadium owners of liability so long as an adequate number of seats — largely in the area looking onto home plate — are behind protective netting.

Fans who sit elsewhere are presumed to have willingly assumed the risk of being hit by a ball or bat, according to the rule, which is now more than a century old.

In Loos’ case, his attorney argues there are two exceptions in the law that could allow them to win the lawsuit. Dunn alleges that MLB isn’t covered by Illinois’ stadium owner liability law and that the Cubs’ conduct in failing to install netting was reckless.

A Cubs spokesman declined to comment. A representative of the MLB couldn’t be reached for comment.