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Louisville Slugger Prevails as Court Throws Out 'Defective Bat' Verdict

As a baseball fan and the father of four baseball-playing boys, I have an uneasy interest in the "youth baseball" injury lawsuits that continue to pop up periodically. As I noted in 2011, there has been a flurry of lawsuits filed by injured baseball pitchers against bat manufacturers and others that have had mixed success in recent years.

In many pitcher lawsuits, plaintiffs are unsuccessful because they are deemed to have assumed the risk of injury by participating in the sport. In a series of recent cases, however, injured pitchers have been able to get around that defense. In 2009, for example, a Montana jury awarded $850,000 to the family of a pitcher who was struck and killed by a ball struck by an aluminum bat made by defendant Hillerich & Bradsby Co., the manufacturer of Louisville Slugger bats. The jury found that Hillerich & Bradsby failed to provide adequate warning as to the dangers of the bat, and that this failure caused the accident. 

On December 9, 2011, another case went against Hillerich & Bradsby when a jury awarded $951,000 to the family of Dillon Yeaman, a 15-year-old pitcher who suffered severe facial injuries when he was struck by a batted ball in a game. (Happily, Yeaman recovered from the injuries and later was able to play high school baseball). According to CBS News, the jury found the design of the bat to be defective and also found that Yeaman did not assume the risk of injury. 

In a post today, Abnormal Use writes that things were beginning to look bleak for H&B following these cases and another high-profile settlement last month in which H&B and other defendants agreed to pay $14.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a pitcher who was severely injured by a batted ball. On September 5, 2012, however, the pendulum may have begun to swing back the other way when a federal court in Oklahoma threw out the $951,000 jury verdict in the Yeaman case. Forbes reports that Judge Stephen Pruit found that there was "no basis for a reasonable jury to find that the bat had 'dangerous characteristics.'" The judge found that the plaintiff never demonstrated that the bat in question had some characteristic that made it defective relative to other acceptable bats, and also rejected plaintiff's argument that the bat should have come with a special warning label of some kind.

As Abnormal Use writes,

Undoubtedly, an expert of some sort can testify as to the increased bat speed created by aluminum bats. We imagine, however, that even a well-struck ball by a wooden bat could cause facial injuries. The only way to prevent such injuries is to use baseball equipment manufactured exclusively by NERF. Unfortunately, sport and injury often go hand-in-hand regardless of the equipment used.

Posted by Bruce Carton on September 17, 2012 at 04:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)


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