Fish v. Los Angeles Dodgers Baseball Club

128 Cal. Rptr. 807 (1976)

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Fish v. Los Angeles Dodgers Baseball Club

California Court of Appeal
128 Cal. Rptr. 807 (1976)

Facts

Alan Fish was 14 years old when he was struck by a foul ball at a Los Angeles Dodgers (defendant) game. Immediately thereafter, Alan was unconscious for approximately one minute before beginning to groan and speak unintelligibly; Alan then stuttered and was unable to speak without long pauses between words. Ambulance attendants escorted Alan to the stadium’s first-aid station, where Glen E. Jones, MD (defendant), the head of the stadium’s emergency medical facility, was waiting for him. Dr. Jones, who was informed that Alan had been hit in the head, examined Alan for a few minutes before advising that Alan could return to his seat and resume normal activities. Alan watched the rest of the game, during which he chased a foul ball and went to the concessions stand; his speech and movement appeared normal. However, upon his departure from the stadium, Alan started to cry and shake, and his speech problems resumed. When Alan arrived home approximately 40 minutes later, his parents, Martin Fish and Francine R. Fish (parents) (plaintiffs), took Alan to Children’s Hospital, where he was examined and received treatment. However, by the next evening, Alan suffered a convulsion that rendered his condition terminal, and he died a few days later. An autopsy revealed that the cause of Alan’s death was the failure to contain a brain hemorrhage caused by the batted ball. The parents sued, among others, Dr. Jones, claiming that he had been negligent by not immediately immobilizing Alan, which would have allowed the hemorrhage to heal on its own. At trial, Dr. Jones claimed that doctors at Children’s Hospital could have contained Alan’s hemorrhage with surgery and that their failure to do so, not Dr. Jones’s actions, caused Alan’s death. In response to this argument, the parents sought a jury instruction that the Children’s Hospital doctors’ conduct was legally irrelevant. The trial court refused this request, instead instructing the jury that a legal cause of death is a cause that was a substantial factor in bringing about the death. The jury ruled for Dr. Jones. The parents appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Potter, J.)

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