The Kansas City Royals Once Got Sued for $20,000 After Hitting a Fan With a Hot Dog

The MLB has had a series of controversies over the recent years. The most notable would be the Astros cheating scandal that took place between the 2017 and 2019 seasons. However, in 2010, the MLB received backlash after a Kansas City Royal fan suffered an injury from the Royals’ mascot during a seemingly harmless event.

Hot dog incident at Royal’s stadium

An MLB fan enjoys a hot dog
An MLB fan enjoys a hot dog | Todd Korol/Toronto Star via Getty Images

In September 2009, the Kansas City Royals were playing at their home stadium. In between innings, their mascot Sluggerrr was preparing for the traditional hot dog toss. The hot dog toss is usually an exciting moment for the fans. It momentarily takes their attention away from the game and allows them to interact with the mascot. However, today’s hot dog toss would not go accordingly for the Royals’ mascot.

Byron Shores, the man who represented Sluggerrr for over 14 years, began the hot dog toss with great enthusiasm. As the toss continued, he became more reckless with his throws. But that did not matter; the fans were loving the opportunity at catching free food. Unfortunately, on a “behind-the-back no-look” pass, he struck unsuspecting Royals fan, John Coomer, in the eye, causing permanent damage. 

Lawsuit file against the Royals

Following the hot dog incident, Coomer suffered a torn retina, a severed cataract, and glaucoma in his left eye. The damage to his eye required two surgeries, which only partially restored his vision. Coomer filed a lawsuit against the Royals to cover the medical expenses.

However, the Royals claimed a hot dog toss fell under the baseball rule, which indicates that MLB teams are not responsible for fan injuries. Coomer claimed that an injury sustained from a hot dog toss is not an inherent risk associated with watching a baseball game.

In the first lawsuit filed against the Royals, the jury found Coomer was at fault for the incident. Royal’s attorneys argued that mascots throw items into the crowd to increase excitement and engagement. They also stated that there is no more inherent risk of watching a baseball game than attending a concert or a monster truck rally, where they commonly throw promotional items to the crowd. Therefore, the jury decided that it was Coomer’s responsibility to pay attention to his surroundings at the baseball game.

Irate from the first verdict, Coomer filed a second lawsuit for the state’s Supreme Court. The Supreme Court overruled the first verdict, indicating the Coomer was not directly responsible for the incident. However, their ruling also indicated that there was no fault on either side in the case. The Supreme Court’s decision left Coomer responsible for all of his medical bills.

Fan interaction and safety moving forward

Injuries sustained from fans at baseball games are more common than most would suspect. There have been over 800 fans injuries sustained at baseball games since the 2010s. However, that number likely is underreported. Protests have been made to the league to extend the foul line netting to lower the chance of injury.

Although most injuries sustained to fans are from foul balls, Coomer’s ruling indicated that fans have to pay the price for basically any injury sustained within a stadium. So what does that mean for mascots moving forward?

The hot dog injury sustained from Coomer was unfortunate and unnecessary. If anything, Coomer’s lawsuit brought to light that mascots need to be more responsible at baseball games. Shores’ recklessness at the baseball game caused permanent grief for Coomer.

If anything, teams should seriously take a step back and examine the actions of their mascots. They should also address any concerns that could potentially be harmful to fans. It is in the best interest of fans and the MLB to ensure another incident like Coomer’s does not happen again.