Brian Cariota Sues Astros for $1M over Foul-Ball Injury; Cites Sign-Stealing

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJuly 12, 2020

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 19:  A Houston Astros hat and glove are seen on the field before Game Six of the League Championship Series against the New York Yankees at Minute Maid Park on October 19, 2019 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Tim Warner/Getty Images

Brian Cariota, who was staffed as an emergency service worker in the Houston Astros' dugout at Minute Maid Park during Game 2 of the 2019 American League Championship Series, is suing the team for more than $1 million in damages for alleged injuries he suffered when a line drive off the bat of Michael Brantley hit him during that contest.

The lawsuit also points to the team's sign-stealing as a contributing factor to his injuries.

Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic reported the news, noting the lawsuit is "believed to be the first lawsuit of this type filed by a non-fan."

That is notable since fans suing teams after they were hit by batted balls at games have been largely unsuccessful because of the "baseball rule," which states fans assume the risks of foul balls if they attend.

Nathaniel Grow, an Indiana University associate professor of business law and ethics, said, "Ultimately, my intuition is that the court will treat an independent contractor in much the same way as a case brought by a fan, and hold that the paramedic assumed the risk of getting hit by a foul ball (especially when sitting in, or nearby, the dugout)."

As for the sign-stealing component, the lawsuit says there was no netting protecting the part of the dugout Cariota was positioned in because it would have impacted the team's efforts to steal the opposition's signs.

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Major League Baseball fined the Astros $5 million, stripped them of their first- and second-round drafts picks in 2020 and 2021, and suspended then-general manager Jeff Luhnow and then-manager AJ Hinch for one year following the investigation into the team's sign-stealing.

The team fired both Luhnow and Hinch.

While the Harris County Emergency Corps employed Cariota, the lawsuit was filed against the Astros because Cariota said the Minute Maid Park lease gives the team control over where it puts its protective netting.

The lawsuit described some of Cariota's injuries:

"He was diagnosed with multiple injuries including a fracture of the left superior orbital wall, a traumatic brain injury, a subarachnoid hemorrhage along the left frontal lobe, and a left frontal bone fracture, among other facial and neurological injuries. Nearly eight months following the incident, plaintiff continues to experience seeing floaters, halos and starbursts at night, as well as blurry vision, which obviously has created challenges in his personal and professional life. Further, plaintiff suffered permanent damage to his retina, which resulted in lifelong vision loss and post-concussion syndrome."

As Kaplan pointed out, the Astros are also facing a lawsuit filed by Jennifer Harughty that says she suffered a fractured finger in 2018 when the team's mascot shot a T-shirt into the stands from close distance and hit her.

The Astros responded to that lawsuit seeking more than $1 million by filing a motion after discovering a social-media post that may indicate a fan caused the injury.

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