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Lawsuit seeks safety netting for MLB ballparks

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred listens during a press

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred listens during a press conference after his first owners' meeting as baseball commissioner, Thursday, May 21, 2015, in New York. Credit: AP / Bebeto Matthews

A federal lawsuit filed in San Francisco on Monday is trying to force Major League Baseball to install netting from foul pole to foul pole to protect spectators from flying bats and balls.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of an Oakland A's fan and other season ticket-holders throughout the major leagues does not ask for money. Instead, it wants Commissioner Rob Manfred to extend the screens that typically cover only a few sections behind the plate all the way down the first- and third-base lines.

"Every type of fan is constantly at risk of serious injury or death," said Robert Hilliard, one of the lawyers involved in the case. "If that foul ball is hit hard enough, reaction time is basically zero and life-threatening injury is certain. This is a needless risk. Extending the nets will, as a fact, save lives."

The proposed class action was filed on behalf of Gail Payne, who has tickets in an unprotected section at the Oakland Coliseum, by Hilliard's Texas-based firm, Hilliard Munoz Gonzalez. A website asks other season ticket-holders to contact another firm handling the case, Seattle-based Hagens Berman.

The commissioner's office said it is discussing safety with the clubs, and players could also become involved in the talks.

"Fan safety is our foremost goal for all those who choose to support our game by visiting our ballparks, and we always strive for that experience to be safe and fan-friendly," MLB said in a statement. "Major League Baseball is in the process of re-evaluating all issues pertaining to fan safety, comfort and expectations."

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