Gregory Murrey: Braves, MLB sued by family of man killed at “Turner Field”

Updated: April 22, 2016
Gregory Murrey: Braves, MLB sued by family of man killed at Turner Field

Greg Murrey visited Turner Field in August 2015, as the Atlanta Braves faced the New York Yankees. His seat was in the second row of Section 401; when standing, the section’s guard rail “barely reached the height of Greg’s ankles,” a lawsuit filed this week claims.

Greg Murrey, a passionate Braves fan, was watching his hometown team play the New York Yankees last August 29, when he stood up in front of his second-row seat in the upper deck. The height of the guard rail—30 inches above the first row—barely came above his ankles, the suit said. When he lost his balance, there was nothing to stop his fall. He plunged 50 feet and died there, according to the complaint.

Murrey’s wife, Laura Hale Murrey, filed the suit on behalf of his estate and their son and daughter. It is the family’s hope that their husband and father will be “the last fan to needlessly die or suffer catastrophic injuries as the result of low railing heights at a sports stadium,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit filed in Fulton County State Court on Tuesday said bannisters in sports arenas around the country are lower than those in homes and other businesses because the owners have capitalized on an exception to the standard height created in the 1920s for 19th-century indoor opera houses and symphony halls, where attendees remained seated and relatively subdued.

The exception allows hand rails to be approximately 30 inches high, compared to the 42 inch requirement for other buildings, to avoid impeding the view of seated theater guests, according to the complaint. The modern stadium, by contrast, subjects visitors to heat that can lead to dehydration and dizziness, plus crowding, steeper seating levels, loud cheering, sometimes dancing and alcohol. “Generally, patrons at the theater do not have beer vendors hawking large beers during plays or operas,” the complaint stated.

The lawsuit lists similar falls from stadiums around the country where fans were killed or seriously injured. Only one team, the Texas Rangers, increased the height of hand rails afterward, the complaint states. In that case, raising the rails cost $1.1 million—a “miniscule” amount in the math of the billion dollar business of baseball, the complaint stated.

The Murreys’ legal team includes: Michael Neff, D. Dwayne Adams, Shane Peagler and Susan Cremer of the Law Offices of Michael Neff and Michael Caplan and T. Brandon Waddell of Caplan Cobb.

A Braves representative said the team declined to comment on the suit.
Braves and other baseball officials have said in the past that their rail heights meet code requirements, the lawsuit said. Neff said in an interview that the law with regard to civil liability is based on acting with ordinary care for safety, not on building codes. For those operating sports arenas where people are dying, ordinary care requires making changes for safety, Neff said.

The lawsuit detailed a series of falls in other arenas over rails that were between 30 inches and 33 inches: St. Louis in 2009, Milwaukee in 2010, the Georgia Dome in 2012, Bobby Dodd Stadium at Georgia Tech in 2012. The complaint suggested a safer railing height of 42 inches—which would come to an average man’s waist and is the level the Rangers used in renovations after a fan died.

The case is Laura Hale Murrey v. Atlanta National League Baseball Club.