Dugout paramedic struck by foul ball sues Astros
The lawsuit states netting should have been set up to protect the paramedic, who suffered a traumatic brain injury during the 2019 ALCS
HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — A dugout paramedic who was struck by a foul ball during Game 2 of the 2019 American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park is seeking more than $1 million in damages from the Astros, according to a lawsuit filed against the club on Thursday.
Brian Cariota, a paramedic supervisor employed by the Harris County Emergency Corps, suffered a traumatic brain injury, subarachnoid hemorrhage along the left frontal lobe and a fracture of the left superior orbital wall. According to the lawsuit, the Astros leaving Cariota unprotected by netting was “no accident.”
“Netting would have partially obstructed the view of an opposing catcher’s signs,” the suit said. “If you are stealing signs from the opposing catcher, you need a clear unobstructed view. The last thing a team engaging in sign stealing wants is a safety net protecting the dugout which may even partially obstruct the view of the opposing catcher’s signs.”
An Astros spokesperson declined comment on Saturday morning, citing the club’s policy to not discuss ongoing litigation. Requests for comment from both the Harris County Emergency Corps and Cariota’s attorney, Rob Ammons, were not immediately returned.
In an investigation that commenced one month after Cariota’s injury, Major League Baseball determined the Astros stole signs electronically during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. No evidence was found of wrongdoing in 2019.
The team focused a center field camera on the opposing catcher, relaying his signs onto a television monitor in the dugout. Players alerted teammates of the coming pitch by banging a trash can. Owner Jim Crane fired general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for allowing the scheme to continue.
Cariota’s lawsuit named only the Houston Astros as a defendant, but mentioned both Hinch and Luhnow in its factual background.
“Luhnow and Hinch, as well as others in control of the Houston Astros, made sure that no safety netting was positioned in an area that would obstruct the line of sight of the opposing catcher’s signs,” the suit read.
“This was a conscious decision made by the defendant (the Astros) who had subjective awareness of the extreme risk associated with its conduct and decision. The decision was made in deliberate disregard for the rights, safety and welfare of others including the plaintiff (Cariota).”
Cariota served as the Astros’ dugout paramedic during the game on Oct. 13. He was hit above the left eyebrow by Michael Brantley’s line drive in the fifth inning of Houston’s 3-2 win. The baseball left Brantley’s bat at 108 mph, according to the suit.
Play was halted for more than a minute while Astros head athletic trainer Jeremiah Randall tended to Cariota. Brantley was visibly shaken in the immediate aftermath. Hinch left the dugout to console Brantley before the game resumed.
“From my perspective where I was, I was on the other side of the dugout, I could hear it. I could see it,” Hinch said on Oct. 14. “I saw the reaction of the players, like everybody else did. I immediately turned to Brantley to see how he was doing, and he was walking a really long way trying to collect himself. And that's when I went out of the dugout to go talk to him and just support him.”
“That wasn't a baseball time there, there wasn't strategy. It wasn't anything about the game. It was about a human being, caring about human beings, and the moment we all needed to take a break from the game until the gentleman was attended to.”
The day after Cariota was struck, his wife, Cori, told a local television station that her husband “felt like he shouldn’t have taken his eye off the ball.”
“He knows it was just one of those freak accidents, and he wants them to win it all. He wants them to take it back,” Cori told ABC13 in a story that still contains the headline “Astros not to blame, says wife of paramedic hit by foul ball."
According to the lawsuit, Cariota has permanent vision loss due to permanent damage to his retina, still experiences blurry vision, post-concussion syndrome and sees “floaters, halos and starbursts at night.”
After a 2-year-old girl was struck by a foul ball last May, the Astros extended protective netting beyond both dugouts at Minute Maid Park. The team debuted the new look on Aug. 19, 2019 — two months before Cariota was hit.
“This history shows that the Astros were keenly aware of the hazard created by foul balls,” the suit read. “Unfortunately, the Astros made a decision that they would not provide a safety net to protect workers in the dugout.”
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