Six years ago 18 year-old Brandon Patch died when he was hit by a baseball while playing in an American League baseball game in Montana. After years of legal battles, the jury finally awarded the family $850,000 in damages. The defendant: Hillerich & Bradsby, the makers of the the Louisville Slugger baseball bat.
According to the courts, the bat company failed to adequately warn users of the dangers of aluminum bats which, according to the company, supply more power in the game when compared to the wooden alternatives. According to the courts, these aluminum bats can cause a ball to travel faster and can apparently cause a baseball to become a deadly projectile.
The family claimed that the faster speed did not give their son enough time to react in order to avoid the ball. As a result, Brandon was hit in the head, ultimately causing his death. At the time of the incident, Brandon was playing as pitcher in the game.
Interestingly enough, the jury didn't find that the Louisville Slugger was misused in anyway nor did they find it to be defective.
In the past it was assumed that players understood the risks associated with the sport of baseball and the potential dangers of bats and balls. The Montana case, however, brings about the discussion of placing warning labels on bats to give players a greater understanding of the dangers of baseball.
Debbie Patch, Brandon's mother, had not expected a Plaintiff's verdict, but instead hoped that other parents and players would become more aware of the dangers involved with aluminum bats. As a result of the court decisions, however, Patch hopes that more youth leagues would switch to using wooden bats instead of the aluminum ones that played a part in her son's death.
This is not the only personal injury case against Hillerich & Bradsby, the makers of the Louisville Slugger. Last year a New Jersey family pressed charges against the bat maker after their son suffered brain damage after an injury during a baseball game. He was struck by a line drive off of an aluminum Slugger bat similar to the one used in Montana. The New Jersey case is still pending in the State's Supreme Court.
As personal injury cases become more and more complex, they begin to affect different areas of society. This one, for example, can potentially impact the entire sport of baseball all over the country. As a result of both the Montana and New Jersey cases, parents and students in New Hampshire might begin to see new labels on all kinds of sporting equipment. Louisville Slugger might be the defendant in this case, but it's possible that cases for other sports might surface in the coming years.
In order to prepare for the changes in the industry, sporting equipment companies may begin to preemptively warn individuals of the dangers of using their goods. Although this will help protect the companies against personal injury suits, it may also change the nature of sports. With the Louisville Slugger cases, for example, parents in Montana, New Jersey, and even New England may begin adopting the practices of the professional leagues by using wooden bats instead of aluminum.
We'll have to keep an eye on this to see how far and how fast this trend might go.