A batty ruling
Our overly litigious society put another notch in its belt last week after a Montana jury awarded the parents of an 18-year-old boy $850,000 after their son, Brandon Patch, was killed in an American Legion game in 2003 when a baseball ‘ hit with an aluminum Louisville Slugger baseball bat ‘ struck Patch in the head. Patch was on the mound when he couldn’t react in time to a comebacker in the tragic accident.
Attorneys for the Patch family argued the bat manufacturer, Hillerich & Bradsby, did not provide proper warning about the dangers of using aluminum bats, meaning that the jury did not find the bat itself to be defective. The special verdict says the failure to warn was the cause of the accident.
As the parent of two children, my heart goes out to the player’s parents. It really does. But the assumed risk and dangers of baseball are obvious to anyone playing. If you get hit by a baseball, it’s going to hurt. Get hit by a ball jumping off an aluminum bat, and, yeah, it’s probably going to hurt even worse.
Pitchers like Patch are even more susceptible to injury because they are in the direct line of fire. The family’s attorneys said experts clocked the ball hit by the bat at 99.8 mph.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission says between 1991 and 2001, 17 people died in the United States from being hit by batted balls. That involves all kinds of bats. So, where was the parents’ concern prior to their son being struck by the ball?
Putting a warning label on any bat, be it aluminum or wooden, isn’t going to keep the ball from coming off the bat any slower, and it surely isn’t going to help the pitcher with his or her reaction time.
If anyone was to be sued, it should have been the league that allowed those ultra-deadly aluminum bats in the first place. With the jury blaming the bat, don’t be surprised if the next angle of attack is to sue leagues that continue to use aluminum bats (leading to leagues raising rates in summer baseball to switch from metal sticks to the traditional wood). After that, we’ll probably see lawsuits against pitchers whose errant throws plunk little Johnny and cause injury.
It’s a slippery slope we’ve already slid too far down.