OT: Lady sues baseball bat company over metal bats

Submitted by formerlyanonymous on November 4th, 2009 at 3:23 PM

Last week, a woman won a lawsuit against Louisville Slugger's parent company over the death of her son in 2003. Her son was pitching in a high school game and a ball came back to the mound and hit him in the head.

The Patch family sued the maker of the bat for not placing a warning label that balls coming off the bat are dangerous. This is ludicrous. The bat was made within the specifications of the league and governing safety body, and it was found not to be a non-defective bat. That group doesn't have to pay the penalty. The bat company does.

This infuriates me to no end. This is apparently the second lawsuit that they've been forced to pay damages. They have a third waiting in the wings. Somebody sue these rules making organizations. These bats aren't defective, they are built to the safety factors studied by the rules organizations and bat companies.

Rabble rabble rabble rabble

(Saw the Outside the Lines piece on it today, hence the delayed reaction to the news)



November 4th, 2009 at 3:29 PM ^

As an umpire, I'm suing the baseball making company for the ball that hit me on the arm when the catcher didn't catch it. Then I'm suing the pitcher for throwing at me. Then I'm suing the catch for not catching it. Then I'm suing the coach for not teaching his catcher to catch.

mr. arbor

November 4th, 2009 at 6:27 PM ^

people sue the manufacturer of the bat because the batter, who actually caused the injury, probably has no money to take.

Under product liability law there are "intended use" exceptions, so that you cant sue a knife making company if your stabbed with a knife... i.e. cutting is the intended use and there can be no product defect claim becuase one gets cut.

The same goes for baseball bats!

Q: So why does Louisville, or any other company pay?
A: Its normally not the company (unless its self-insured) but the insurance company that pays these settlements. And honestly, its probably to avoid nominal legal costs and (i would bet) to avoid bad press... i can see the headline if this went to trial "Louisville Slugger Bat Co takes Swing at Family of 10 year old little leaguer"

So its a cost benifit thing... where paying 3 families a year may be worth it.

Lastly... if anyone is interested the ASTM establishes standards and guidlines for everything from baseball backstops to bats and balls. These standards are great to use in court.

See http://www.astm.org/SEARCHTEST/search_json.htm?query=baseball&collectio…

willis j

November 4th, 2009 at 3:29 PM ^

people when they do this shit. If the bat was made to illegal specifications. Fine. But becaues there is no warning label? This is getting out of control.


November 4th, 2009 at 3:30 PM ^

that bitch is just trying to make some $$$.

"The Patch family sued the maker of the bat for not placing a warning label that balls coming off the bat are dangerous."

are you serious? everyone knows baseball+ body part= pain. It's the chance you take when playing the sport. putting a warning label on the bat wouldn't have saved your son. how the hell did they win that case?

Fuzzy Dunlop

November 4th, 2009 at 3:36 PM ^

"[T]hat bitch is just trying to make some $$$"

Lovely thing to say about a woman who lost her son.

Whichever way you ultimately come out on the issue, the dispute about metal baseball bats is a very real one. Many people think that such bats are inherently dangerous, and thus defective, products, because on a line drive the ball comes off the bat too fast for the pitcher to defend himself. People are killed every year by line drives coming off metal bats. A number of lawmakers have, and are seeking to, outlaw them for youth leagues.

This is not to say that I'm on board with efforts to ban metal bats. But it is a nonfrivolous issue, and a woman who lost her young son shouldn't be tarred as a greedy bitch by know-nothings on an internet message board.


November 4th, 2009 at 3:46 PM ^

Personally, I'm on the wooden or less "engineered" metal bats should be the only ones allowed bandwagon. I feel that the improvements made in technology have made the bats much more dangerous. However, IMO, this discussion isn't about the relative safety of metal versus wood.

The issue is that they lost for not putting a warning on the bat. In that case, all bats should come with a warning, not just the metal ones. Any struck ball is a danger and I should be properly warned.

Maybe we should have the Surgeon General write up the warning. We could paint the bats black and put skulls and crossbones on them. Leary>

Fuzzy Dunlop

November 4th, 2009 at 3:56 PM ^

"The issue is that they lost for not putting a warning on the bat."

The family sued arguing (1) that the product was inherently defective, and (2) that, in the alternative, the product was defective absent a warning detailing its dangerous properties (like cigarettes). This is common to virtually all products liability cases.

If you read the article, the JURY rejected the first claim (inherent defect), but found in plaintiff's favor on the second claim. So if you're suggesting that the family only complained because there was no "warning," you're mistaken.


November 4th, 2009 at 6:07 PM ^

Baseballs kill people.

Why didn't the baseball manufacturer have a warning label stating that the ball, when thrown in certain circumstances, might have a propensity to be struck by another object and turn into a high speed projectile of sufficient hardness to kill people standing less than 61 feet away?

Why isn't the family negligent for failing to wrap their child in bubble wrap before arriving at the baseball field to pitch?


November 4th, 2009 at 3:44 PM ^

So it's clear, I'm more unhappy because she is going after the bat company instead of those who set the standards. That is a sign of going for the money. The rules making organizations don't have the money, but they have the ultimate authority to set the standards. They probably had some sort of consent form that the player had to sign with proof of insurance, as that tends to be mandatory in most leagues I ever participated in. So she couldn't get money from them.

So she couldn't sue the people who are actually to blame (if anyone really IS to blame), and she went after the manufacturer of the bat. The bat was not defective. It was within the rules. The bat company shouldn't be at fault at all.

This definitely looks like it's about the money. That is my problem with this.


November 4th, 2009 at 6:13 PM ^

My (former) family business made industrial sawing equipment for 100 years. In about 1973, people started suing under the tort bar's strict liability standards when they managed to remove fingers with saw blades, regardless of whether the guards had been removed (with welding torches) by the end user, regardless of whether the plaintiff was accidentally shoved into the saw blade (by fighting coworkers), regardless of whether the saw was defective or there was any evidence of negligence.

The simple truth is, you can't get blood from a stone, so people always sue the money, and hometown juries would rather give poor [blank] a big payday than protect some faceless company that built a product that performed as it was supposed to.

It'll be turned over on appeal, but it will still cost Louisville Slugger millions to defend. When your next baseball bat costs 10% more, you'll know why.


November 4th, 2009 at 7:42 PM ^

She couldn't go after the governing body that set the standards; they didn't do anything that's legally actionable. As others have mentioned already, she could (and did, obviously) go after the bat manufacturer because it was the bat that caused the death. That is, without the bat having X, Y, and Z properties that allowed the batter to swing it really hard, the ball wouldn't have traveled at a high enough velocity to kill. In essence, they argued that the bat was inherently dangerous. Just because it was "within the rules" doesn't mean it's not dangerous.

In terms of your last point that it looks like it's all about the money, I'd argue it's all about deterrence: the mother wants to hit the manufacturer hard in the wallet so they'll have less economic incentive to create more and more dangerous bats. Blame the rules, if you want, for allowing dangerous bats, but the manufacturer didn't HAVE TO make a bat that was dangerous just to push the limits on the standards.


November 4th, 2009 at 8:02 PM ^

You're going to blame the company for making the best product allow-able under the rules? If they didn't make a bat like that then some other bat manufacturer would make a bat that was similar.

It's an arms race to always make the best thing and if it's within the rules you cannot fault the company for making a good product.

To think that suing a bat company is going to make bat companies stop producing metal bats is... let's just say... not very sound logic. Which is why if she didn't sue the company and went and tried to get the rules changed to only allow wooden bats with the national federation or rules body it would make her seem less of a money grubber.


November 4th, 2009 at 3:47 PM ^

I wouldnt call her a bitch, but I would say she is ridiculous. When you lose a family member and seek monetary payments when no one is at fault... you have basically put a price tag on your family member's life....This is an unfortunate accident, but the woman is a fool to think that a company killed her son, and more importantly that money will have any chance of fixing her son's death... SHE WANTS MONEY AND NOTHING ELSE

Fuzzy Dunlop

November 4th, 2009 at 3:53 PM ^

Wow, you have such a wonderful ability to see into people's souls, based on nothing more than reading about her story on a college sports message board. You must be psychic.

It's impossible that the woman could honestly believe that the product that killed her son is inherently defective, and that attention must be brought to the matter. Just impossible. The only answer is that she's a greedy bitch. Thanks for showing us the light.

Fuzzy Dunlop

November 4th, 2009 at 4:25 PM ^

I admit, a quick google search didn't reveal anything on point. See the NY Times article I linked below, though, which suggests more deaths from metal bats than wooden bats between 1991 and 2007. Pontoon also had a helpful post about the fact that balls coming off a metal bat are faster than off a wooden bat.


November 4th, 2009 at 4:22 PM ^

Without getting too in-depth with my research, I've turned up a couple of sources that dispute that.

One: http://www.playballmn.com/topic.aspx?id=7
Two: http://abovethelaw.com/2009/11/do_baseball_bats_need_warnings.php

Both assert that two thirds of the catastrophic injuries attributable to batted balls have occured because of wooden rather than aluminum bats. Now, neither source is exactly neutral and neither source includes the amount of statistical information necessary to decide whether that statistic should mean anything (e.g., which kind of bat is used by what percentage of the populace or how many minor injuries are caused by whatever bat) but it's clear that it's not so simple to say "it's just a fact" that there are more injuries because of metal bats than wood.

Full disclosure: I'm a plaintiff's lawyer but don't have a dog in this fight as I haven't looked deeply at the facts or law to make a decision.


November 4th, 2009 at 4:34 PM ^

But what are the statistics for Metal/Wooden bat use. Because if Metal bats are used 2/3s of the time and wooden bats 1/3 of the time... Then I would have to say "Really Wooden bats have less injuries huh who'd a thunk it"

I would assume that most teams that are not in the majors use metal bats therefore most people probably use metal bats.

Just because 2/3's of the injuries are from metal bats means nothing if 90% of the bats used are metal. That's a ridiculous claim.

***EDIT*** This post wasn't slanted toward the poster above me this was to the posters who say "Metal bats kill people more so they have to be worse".


November 4th, 2009 at 4:36 PM ^

That's probably not quantifiable. Any league that allows metal bats also allows wood bats.

I see kids use wood bats fairly regularly at select tournaments, I'd say at least one every other weekend, which is still a pretty high rate for the supposed disadvantage it gives you.

In other useless information:
Most leagues for players over 18 use wood bats. The NCAA uses metal bats during the season, but the summer leagues are all wood bats. Semi-pro also uses wood, and it's probably bigger than you think.


November 4th, 2009 at 4:51 PM ^

bats. I know that when I was little everyone had metal bats. I don't see why if you want to hit the ball you'd ever go to a wood bat since metal bats>wood bats. I guess if you were in high school and knew that you'd be going pro you'd be more apt to use wood bats to get the feel for them before the plunge but that is the only case where I can see using wood bats where they allow metal bats.

If I was to completely guess a percentage of metal/wood bats I would say at least 60/70% which put the ratio of hurt people to about the same as the amount of people who use those bats.

(This is all speculation with no members based off of personal experiences. The best course of action would be to use the # of wood bats made versus the # of metal bats made per year but that number would be hugely skewed by the majors who churn through bats. In conclusion as FA has said there probably isn't a way to determine how many players use metal versus wood bats.)

Fuzzy Dunlop

November 4th, 2009 at 4:06 PM ^

"[P]lus whatever kind of bat the kids use, there's still the chance of the ball hitting someone in the head and killing them."

Read this article.

Relevant part: "[A] ball traveled about 20 miles an hour faster off a metal bat than off a wood bat because of what is generally referred to as the “trampoline effect.”"

Anyone whose ever played little league knows that balls pop off a metal bat much faster than a wooden bat. To deny that is silly.

"[Y]ou can tell by her claim that she isn't really doing this for safety's sake, just the money."

That's just asinine. From the article:

"'We never expected it,' she said. 'We just hoped we could get the truth out for more people to see. Patch said she hopes the decision will make more people aware of the dangers associated with aluminum bats and that more youth leagues will switch to using wooden bats. 'We just want to save someone else's life,' Patch said. . . The attorney said the family's victory will not likely change the way aluminum bats are used, but that it could help give momentum to efforts calling for a switch to wood bats in youth baseball. . . . 'We should go back to the way baseball is supposed to be played, the way professional baseball is played,' said Debbie Patch."

Disagree with the result all you want. But there is no basis to impugn this poor woman's motives.


November 4th, 2009 at 4:12 PM ^

I think my example of why she doesn't sue the league and rules-writing organization is more telling. Suing the bat company does nothing to move people to wooden bats. If she would have or could have sued the league or rules making organization, change would or could happen. The bat company will make the most explosive bat they can to those rule making organization's standards.

Bats will stay just as reflexive until the rules makers make the bat companies change. Louisville isn't going to make less competitive bats because of these few law suits.

Her target can definitely send the wrong message about her.

Fuzzy Dunlop

November 4th, 2009 at 4:22 PM ^

As someone said in a post above, she probably signed a waiver barring any claims against the league. As for the "rules-writing organization," I'm not even sure what the so-called "rules-writing organization" is, much less whether it owed her a legal duty such that there would be a viable claim. I think you may be giving too much credence to the bat company's spin. The idea that a bat company won't change until some unnamed "rule makers" force it to doesn't really hold water -- if a company is repeatedly, successfully sued because of a product, it changes the product to make it less dangerous/reduce the risk of lawsuits. This happens all the time in products liability cases.

If she did have a viable claim against a rules-writing organization, I would think her lawyer would have brought that claim, especially if she was the type of "greedy bitch" that some seem to think. So I don't see how the lack of such a claim casts doubt on her motives.


November 4th, 2009 at 4:30 PM ^

Yeah, that was me who brought up the waiver thing a little further up the thread. The rules-writing organizations are generally the national organization that the leagues fall under. On in many states, you use "Federation" rules, or NFHSA. They mandate that bats must be BESR certified (a program developed by NFHSA), which means:

The Ball Exit Speed Ratio mark ensures a maximum exit speed of 97 miles per hour. The rules also a part of the BESR standard, have the following requirement a maximum of 2 5/8 inches diameter bat barrel and a minus-3 differential between the length and weight. (i.e.,a 33-inch-long bat cannot weigh less than 30 ounces).

Little League, Pony/Colt, American Legion, and other associations generally create their own rules for their organization, but most follow the same BESR standards. It makes it easy for bat companies to all make bats to the same standards.

Softball has similar rules set forth by American Softball Association (ASA).


November 4th, 2009 at 4:15 PM ^

Obviously the ball travels faster off a metal bat than a wood bat, but since the ball still travels much faster than someone can react, it doesn't make much of a difference. if the ball is coming at your head it is nearly impossible to get out of the way, even in the pros where the distance from the mound to the plate is even longer.


November 4th, 2009 at 4:22 PM ^

That article couldn't have been more slanted and biased if the headline read "METAL BATS KILL EVERYONE."

Still waiting for your justification for the statement, "Far, far more deaths and injuries happen every year because of metal bats." Even in that slanted article, they attributed eight deaths in eleven years to metal bats. That doesn't exactly validate your claim.

Fuzzy Dunlop

November 4th, 2009 at 4:37 PM ^

I admitted I couldn't find anything, what more do you want? To make it official, though, I rescind my statement, though I do think it's common sense that a ball traveling faster towards the pitcher, giving the pitcher less time to react, is more likely to result in injury.

To clarify my position though, since I feel like I'm somehow becoming the anti-metal bat spokesperson: I'M NOT AGAINST METAL BATS. I just recognize that there's a fairly wide-ranging debate on the issue, and that a woman who lost her son, and thus probably honestly thinks that metal bats are dangerous, should not be called a "greedy bitch" and have her motives impugned by jackasses on a message board.


November 4th, 2009 at 4:42 PM ^

I agree that they probably are a little more dangerous. The numbers are probably hard to trace without some extra work. That said, I think the chance of death due to a baseball hitting the head isn't that high. It takes quite a few unlucky breaks for it to happen. I doubt there is much more than 15 deaths a year in the US from it. Still, that's 15 deaths that might be avoided with a slight change to the bat's composition.

I'm not against metal bats, but I think we can always improve upon the materials we make them with.


November 4th, 2009 at 3:48 PM ^

This is such shit....Before President Obama was elected, he voted for a bill that allowed victims of shootings to sue the gun company.... I also think that's some huge bullshit.. but oh well.

negative points for a fact? ^^^^ He did vote that way, and to me, it is a similar instance


November 4th, 2009 at 3:42 PM ^

The pitcher can't see that from the mound; if anything were to be labelled, it should be the ball.

WARNING: this object, when thrown toward a batter, may return with greater velocity that that with which it left your hand.


November 4th, 2009 at 4:42 PM ^

Question for the lawyers out there, doesn't this set some sort of dangerous precedent?

Not really. It's a county court in Montana. Their ruling has no precentential value in other state or federal courts.

and why was this a jury trial in the first place?
It appears that in Montana either party can request a jury in a civil case. This is usually the case in most civil claims.


November 4th, 2009 at 6:52 PM ^

Question for the lawyers out there, doesn't this set some sort of dangerous precedent?

Not really. It's a county court in Montana. Their ruling has no precentential [sic] value in other state or federal courts.

Also, the outcome of this case (manufacturer found liable under a failure-to-warn products liability theory -- despite adhering to regulatory or industry-accepted safety standards -- for causing an injury where the risk of said injury is painfully obvious) has unfortunately been commonplace across almost every industry in almost every state for decades. (See, e.g., Ramirez v. Plough (1993) 6 Cal.4th 539.)

It appears that in Montana either party can request a jury in a civil case. This is usually the case in most civil claims.

Read: plaintiffs in Montana can unilaterally demand a jury trial. Verily the bat company did not request a jury trial in this case.

Another answer: the following questions of fact existed: (1) whether the bat could be made more safe without significantly impacting the sport for which it was designed (finding: no, it could not - otherwise the inherent defect claim would have likely succeeded); (2) could an adequate warning have prevented the damage? (finding: yes, it could); (3) did the bat provide an adequate warning? (finding: no, it didn't).

Had the only issues been legal in nature (e.g. did the manufacturer owe the plaintiff a legal duty), the case would likely have been resolved without a jury trial upon summary judgment motion. Because factual questions existed, they were to be resolved by a jury (see Subrosa's answer, above).


November 4th, 2009 at 3:59 PM ^

The family of Brandon Patch argued that aluminum baseball bats are dangerous because they cause the baseball to travel at a greater speed. They contended that their 18-year-old son did not have enough time to react to the ball being struck before it hit him in the head

Also, for a 56mph pitch the average batted ball speed is 88.6 mph for wood bats and 92.5 mph for aluminum bats.

88.6 mph = 129.94 feet/sec
92.5 mph = 135.67 feet/sec

The pitching rubber is 60 feet 6 inches from home plate. So on average, the wood batted ball would arrive at the pitcher in 0.4656 seconds and the aluminum batted ball in 0.4459 seconds, a difference of 0.0197 or 2 100ths of a second.



November 4th, 2009 at 4:00 PM ^

They timed the sound of the ping of the bat to the sound of the impact in a video, found that this particular instance was closer to .378s. They claimed that scientists determined that the pitcher needs at least .4s to adequately protect themselves.

But yeah, metal bats are engineered by exit speed. They have to be within a certain percentage of a wood bat, which is probably that 3.9 mph difference in your averages. The problem is metal bats being rolled, warmed, or heavily worn. It makes the metal more reflexive, increasing the exit speed. This is like having a rubber band stretched so tight you can barely move it to a rubber band with just enough slack to make it super springy.


November 4th, 2009 at 3:55 PM ^

These types of lawsuits make me irate. A few years ago a man sued McDonalds because he spilled some of their fresh coffee on himsel and got scalded. His complaint was there was no warning as to how hot the coffee was. Its coffee....of course its goann be hot. And for those wondering, yes, it was before frozen coffees and such.

I feel sorry that she lost her son but suing the shit out of everybody is not gonna bring him back or make her any happier.