Just six days after a Texas baseball fan fell over a railing to his death in 2011, an insurance broker for Major League Baseball sent the league a sobering memo.
BWD Group’s Michael Schmidt wrote that he had just paid a visit to Dodger Stadium and looked for ways a fan could fall over a protective railing to the ground below.
“In Los Angeles as well as other ballparks, it is not that difficult for a fan to lose their balance and take a header over the railing, such as what happened in Texas,” Schmidt wrote. “The best solution is safety netting under each of the decks that can be effectively fastened to the concrete.”
That memo may turn out to be a key piece of evidence in an ongoing lawsuit against the Atlanta Braves and MLB. The suit was filed by Laura Murrey, whose 60-year-old husband died after falling over a 30-inch-high railing to the lower level at Turner Field.
On Aug. 29, 2015, Greg Murrey stood up from his second-row seat in the upper deck and hyperventilated. That caused him to lose his balance, topple forward and fall over the railing, medical experts determined.
The lawsuit accuses the Braves and MLB of negligence, arguing Murrey would not have died if the railing had been taller. “Another inexpensive safety precaution, protective netting, would also have easily prevented Greg’s death,” the suit said.
In court filings, the Braves and MLB have denied the lawsuit’s accusations.
There is no indication that Schmidt ever sent the memo to the Braves. In pretrial testimony, former Braves president John Schuerholz defended the safety of Turner Field’s railings, noting they were above the minimum height required by building codes.
“We felt like we were doing things correctly,” he said.
“Fan safety is very important to the Atlanta Braves,” the team’s spokeswoman, Beth Marshall, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday. “Since this is an ongoing case and is subject to pending litigation, we believe it’s inappropriate to comment further.”
The case is scheduled to go to trial in Fulton County State Court in November.
Schmidt’s July 13, 2011, memo came to light after the AJC and WSB-TV filed a court motion seeking a halt to the Braves and MLB filing records under seal or after being heavily redacted during the ongoing litigation. Numerous documents such as the memo have since been unsealed, although many more remain confidential.
More documents should be made public, said Atlanta lawyer Cynthia Counts, who filed the motion on behalf of the AJC and WSB-TV.
Schmidt wrote the memo just six days after 39-year-old firefighter Shannon Stone flipped over a 30 1/2-inch railing at the Texas Rangers’ stadium while trying to catch a ball tossed to him by outfielder Josh Hamilton. He died after falling 20 feet to the concrete flooring below, as his young son Cooper looked on.