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Man alleges not enough done to protect spectators

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A dentist who lost some of his vision after he was beaned at a Philadelphia Phillies game is suing the team, alleging that not enough was done to protect spectators.

Neil Pakett, of Elkins Park, would have been protected during the June 25, 2001, game at Veterans Stadium if the backstop was wide enough to meet the recommendations of the Architectural Graphic Standards and had been angled differently, according to court documents citing an expert hired by Pakett's lawyer.

Pakett was struck when a foul ball flew off the bat of Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who was batting left-handed. Pakett attempted to catch the ball, instead of protecting himself, according to court documents.

Both the city of Philadelphia and the Phillies are defendants in the case.

A Philadelphia Common Pleas judge dismissed the Phillies from the case in October, but Pakett appealed to the state Commonwealth Court. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for March 3.

A lawyer retained by the team, Robert J. Foster, said that decades of case law dictates that fans take on the responsibility of protecting themselves when they attend a sporting event, such as baseball.

Among the protections cited by Philadelphia judge Joseph I. Papalini were warnings by the public announcer, on the back of every ticket, on signs posted on walkways and between concourses, and by a video cartoon that is played in the middle of the first inning.

Papalini also cited the "no-duty" rule of Pennsylvania's courts, which holds that operators of a baseball stadium, amusement park or other such facilities are not bound to protect or warn spectators from "common, frequent, and expected" risks that are part of the activity.

Pakett's attorneys contend that the no-duty rule does not apply because the team chose to protect some spectators, but not others, when it erected the backstop.

Pakett and his attorney, Frederic Eisenberg, did not return messages left Friday. Pakett, who underwent surgery for the injury, suffered temporary blindness and has not regained all of his sight, according to the suit. Pakett was seeking more than $50,000 in damages, Foster said.