In Game 1 of the 2013 Stanley Cup final, Chicago Blackhawks fan and long-time season ticket holder Patricia Higgins was struck in the face by an errant puck that had flown up and under the protective netting. That night, Patricia and her daughter, Caitlin, were occupying their usual seats in section 115, row 11.
"All I heard was the stick hitting the puck, so it was that 'slap' sound, and, I mean, within a split second (she was hit)," Caitlin told NBC Chicago.
Higgins is suing the United Center for an unspecified amount, plus legal costs.
The Johnny Oduya shot struck the 55-year-old near her right eye, causing a concussion and a one-and-a-half inch deep cut that required stitches.
From the Chicago Sun-Times:
“Among her claims in the lawsuit are that the United Center was careless and negligent in its installation and maintenance of the nets.
Because of that, Higgins ‘sustained injuries, suffered pain, lost wages and medical bills, and will continue to suffer such damages in the future,’ according to the lawsuit."
And though NHL tickets have a release of liability disclaimer printed on them, the United Center has been brought to court before when another fan was hit with a puck. In 2002, a confidential settlement was reached with Elizabeth Hahn in her suit against the NHL, Chicago Blackhawks and the United Center. That one occurred in January of 2002, the last season before the NHL mandated netting be hung behind each net.
From the Whiting Law Group that handled the 2002 case:
“Mr. Whiting and a handful of experts demonstrated that the NHL was aware of the propensity for hockey pucks to fly into the “danger zones” (those areas behind the netting) at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour on a frequent basis. Consequently, Whiting Law Group proved that the NHL was negligent for not creating alternative means to protect fans, such as Elizabeth Hahn who was seated directly behind the goal when hit by the hockey puck.
Although the settlement was confidential, it is believed to be one of the first-ever cases to establish a link between the NHL and fans injured at individual team-owned facilities nationwide. Moreover, immediately after the settlement, protective nets were installed in every NHL-run hockey facility.”
On March 16, 2002, 13-year-old Columbus fan Brittanie Cecil was struck in the temple by a flying puck in Nationwide Arena and died from her injuries two days later. The NHL required all its rinks to hang protective the following season.