CASPER, Wyo. — A youth baseball league was not responsible for the 2008 death of a woman at a Casper ball field, a jury ruled.
The jury concluded Casper Youth Baseball did not behave negligently in connection with the death of Jennifer Job-Massa, an airline pilot killed when a shed at the Field of Dreams baseball complex toppled in powerful winds.
Jurors rendered their verdict on Saturday after a week-long trial in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne.
During the trial, the league argued that Job-Massa’s death resulted from an unforeseeable act of nature. It offered evidence suggesting a microburst from a passing thunderstorm produced strong gusts that slammed the field.
One witness testified that the weather conditions could have generated 90 mph winds — a rarity, even in windy Casper.
“The circumstances showed it was a bizarre weather event with terrible and unforeseeable consequences,” said league attorney Cameron Walker.
Job-Massa was jogging near the ball field when the thunderstorm moved through the area. The South Dakota woman was in Casper on a layover.
No one witnessed the incident, but the league believes winds generated by the microburst lifted the 1,600-pound scorers’ shed into the air before it struck Job-Massa. The wooden structure was not anchored to the ground.
“This was an unprecedentedly powerful wind,” Walker said.
Walker said he was pleased the trial exonerated the league, which operates youth baseball programs for hundreds of children.
Attorneys for Job-Massa’s family had accused the league of doing nothing to ensure the shed was structurally sound or built according to city code. Those codes, they argued, required the structure to be able to withstand a 90-mph gust for at least three seconds.
Lawyers for the family could not be reached Monday for comment.
The Field of Dreams complex is owned by the city, but leased to the baseball league. U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson, who presided over the trial, dismissed the city from the lawsuit a few weeks before the proceedings began.
Attorneys for Job-Massa’s family also sued Phipps Construction, the company that built the shed. The business settled with the family for $1 million before the trial, court documents show.