Take me out to the lawsuit-free ball game

The Madison County Record Jul. 9, 2006, 7:37am

Now that summer is in full sweltering swing, families are pouring into stadiums across the county to enjoy America's favorite pastime--baseball.

But let's hope no one around here throws the game a legal curveball.

It happened last year on Mother's Day in California. A patron at a major league game filed a lawsuit alleging sex discrimination because he did not receive a free tote bag given to women patrons as a promotional item.

The Gateway Grizzlies played at home over the 4th of July, and let's hope no one who attended that game was so far out in left field. But if so, the team may want to consider a tactic similar to the "Salute to Frivolous Lawsuit Night" used by another minor league franchise, the Pennsylvania Altoona Curve.

The Gateway Grizzlies could, for example:

-Give a special bouquet of July 4th flowers to the first woman through each turnstile.

-Serve "safety coffee" at a lukewarm temperature only, so fans won't burn themselves.

-Put warning labels on ballpark franks to protect the team from obesity lawsuits.

Frivolity aside, instances of lawsuits ruining family sporting events are not uncommon, although a few cases stand out.

In Arizona, a popular annual softball tournament had to be canceled when a player broke his own ankle sliding into third base and sued the city-owned sports complex. (Arizona Daily Sun, September 15, 2003).

Then there's the Florida father who sued a youth baseball league because his son was told he had made the league's all-star team when in fact he hadn't. As a result of the lawsuit costs, the future of the baseball league was jeopardized the following year. (Liability Week, June 29, 1998)

Junk lawsuits are a serious issue affecting everyone in Illinois. A recent study by the Harris Company found that the state of Illinois ranks 45th in the country for legal fairness, far behind every state in our region, making the Land of Lincoln the "Lawsuit Abuse Capital of the Midwest," something that will not go unnoticed by employers.

Companies create jobs where the legal system is fair, so why would a company move to a state ranked sixth-worst in the country for legal fairness?

Lawsuit abuse is a serious problem in Illinois, one which costs us jobs, increases prices on everything we buy and limits access to important healthcare services.

By coming together to demand common sense use of our courts, we can strike out lawsuit abuse in Illinois. This summer, let's hope we hear "Play ball!" more than "Order in the court!"

David Loveday is the executive director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch. I-LAW is a non-partisan, grassroots watchdog group dedicated to educating the public about the negative effects of lawsuit abuse and its costs to Illinois workers, consumers, taxpayers and small businesses.

More News