- Premises liability. Any business that is open to the public is required to take reasonable care to prevent foreseeable injuries to visitors. In the context of a sports venue, this generally means making sure that the facility is well maintained. This includes having a process in place to address common hazards. For example, spectators can be expected to spill drinks. A stadium should be routinely checking for water on floors that are likely to be slippery if they get wet. Similarly, venues should maintain their stairways and address broken infrastructure, even if it means shutting down a portion of the venue while the repairs are underway. Someone who is injured by a condition that should’ve been anticipated—for example, slipping on a wet floor—may have legal recourse against the owner or operator of the facility under a theory of premises liability.
- Injuries to spectators. Major sports venues print liability waivers on the backs of their tickets. These waivers typically provide that spectators assume the risk of injury by sitting close to the action. The waivers are intended to discourage people from suing if they are hit by a stray baseball or hockey puck, or a basketball player falls over them and hurts them. Under Nevada law the enforceability of a liability waiver will depend on the facts of the injury. An ordinary situation, such as a tipped basketball flying into the stands, may be the sort of thing that a waiver would cover. But if a player deliberately flings a ball into the stands, perhaps with the intent to hurt a heckler, the waiver probably would not apply.
- Injuries caused by other spectators. Some injuries at sports venues are caused not (or at least partially not) by the venue’s negligence but by actions of other patrons. In these cases it can be appropriate to sue the individual who caused the injury. For example, a spectator who drops an object from a high deck might be liable for injuries to people who are struck down below. Such cases may also implicate the venue, if the venue hasn’t taken reasonable precautions against the injury. Large stadiums often build netting under their upper decks to prevent objects as well as people from falling.
There are a number of sources of personal injury at major sporting venues like stadiums and basketball arenas. Like any other public venue, sporting arenas can have physical problems that make them unsafe: wet floors, broken railings, inappropriately locked doors, and so on. Spectators can be injured by balls or other equipment flying into the stands. Spectators can also end up hurting each other, whether deliberately (in fights) or by accident. These circumstances each require a separate legal analysis, but all may offer injured people the option of suing for compensation.