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)


Tha Stunna

November 4th, 2009 at 4:56 PM ^

Perhaps you mean the 1994 lawsuit by a woman who sued because the coffee was 40-50 degrees hotter than it needed to be, and caused 3rd degree burns. She was hospitalized for eight days and had a skin graft. There was a warning label, and that wasn't the issue.

I can only assume you don't mean that lawsuit though, because it would be stupid if you did.

No.9 Hamburgers

November 4th, 2009 at 3:56 PM ^

Don't people sign waivers when their kids play sports...I know I have to. When playing any sport, its not if you will get hurt, its when and to what degree. As a parent, I feel bad for her loss, but, I also know there is no amount of money that is going to replace what she loss...but thats just me.


November 4th, 2009 at 4:06 PM ^

...probably signed a waiver that protected the league from liability in case of injury, but they almost certainly did not sign a waiver that protected the bat company from liability in case of injury when they purchased the bat. It's two different potential defendants, in other words.

That said, as this case demonstrates a waiver in and of itself may or may not protect you from judgment. There is also the issue of whether the waiver was sufficient to fully inform the plaintiff of the risks. Here, the jury found that it was not.

Regardless, we'll see if it holds up on appeal. I've read some things in various places that suggest it may not should the manufacturer decide to pursue one.


November 4th, 2009 at 4:13 PM ^

OK, so we can't have aluminum bats because high schoolers are too strong and hit the ball too hard. What about the minor-league coach that died from a line drive off a wooden bat? What about the major leaguer that died because he was hit in the head with a fastball - basically the same speed as a liner off a wooden bat?

And what about what happens when a kid of average strength and ability takes a wooden bat to the plate against one of those major-league prospects that already has a 95 MPH fastball? Who's going to sue because the splinters hurt or killed someone?


November 4th, 2009 at 8:07 PM ^

All sports entail some kind of risk, yes. Hockey players have died because they got slashed by a stick; no one is suggesting banning hockey sticks. Jockeys have been trampled by horses; no one is suggesting banning horses from horse racing.

The question is informed consent. Everyone knows you could get hurt or killed by a sharp hockey stick. Everyone knows you could get trampled by a horse if you fall off yours. In the case of baseball, everyone knows you could get hit by a line drive or a pitched ball. But that doesn't mean you've given informed consent to accepting the risk you could get hit by a line drive that's substantially accelerated by a metal bat. It may seem obvious to most people, but I'd bet that many, many people don't realize that balls come off metal bats faster than wooden bats. They may have signed a waiver, but they signed it with the belief that the metal bats wouldn't create an elevated level of danger.

SOME level of risk in sports is understood and consented to. An elevated risk, when you don't know about it, isn't. The lawsuit was about a lack of warning on the bat. Therefore, the parents didn't know that the metal bats created an elevated risk; any "consent" they'd previously given is moot.


November 4th, 2009 at 8:21 PM ^

Do you really think that the kid would not have died if the ball was hit the exact same way except with a wooden bat? Do you really think that that extra couple tenths of a second really mattered?

He still would have died it's ridiculous to think that he could have reacted any differently when we are talking about tenths of a second.


November 4th, 2009 at 9:25 PM ^

A tenth of a second is a pretty big deal when it comes to that reaction time to get out of the way. Scientist who study this feel that you need at least .4 seconds to react. As an umpire that's had 2-3 kids hit in the face, and probably another 12-15 save themselves in the last year and a half, I don't doubt that a tenth of a second is the difference between serious injury or not.


November 4th, 2009 at 8:54 PM ^

And what is the amount of elevated risk?

Let's do some rough math. First let's take the NYT numbers of 17 deaths in high school baseball games due to being smacked with a line drive, and we'll go ahead and use the four to one ratio they provided.


There are about 37000 high schools in the country. Source: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_high_schools_are_there_in_the_united…. Many of these might be specialty schools of some sort or ones that just don't have a baseball team or merge their athletics with another school, so let's say 25,000 schools play a 25-game baseball season every year. That works out to 312,500 high school baseball games (and yes, I divided by two.) Over the eleven year period, that's 3,437,500 games, 17 of which resulted in the death of a participant due to a line drive. Using the 4:1 ratio, about 14 were from a metal bat and 3 from a wood bat. So your chances of dying from a wood-bat line drive were about 9 100,000ths of a percentage point, or .000000872, and your chances of dying from a metal bat line drive were about 40 100,000ths of a percentage point, or .00000407.

This is the kind of elevated risk that demands a warning label? Fine - let's fan out around the country, and slap warning labels on metal spikes because they're not rubber; warning labels for every Astroturf field and skin infield because the ball skips faster on them. If parents sign their kids up for a league with a blazing fastball pitcher playing in it, slap a warning label on his arm. Let's inspect every glove in the country and slap a warning label on the webbed ones because they're more likely to tear and let the ball through than one with a full pocket you can't see through.

Sgt. Wolverine

November 4th, 2009 at 7:52 PM ^

This is a little bit of a different direction, but the local high school baseball coach -- a long-time coach who's already a member of the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame while he's still coaching -- once told me he dislikes metal bats, but not primarily because of safety issues. From a Freep article a couple years ago:


Chelsea baseball coach Wayne Welton, who has been coaching for 30 years, wouldn’t mind switching to wooden bats.

“I just think that so many kids get a false sense that they’re pretty good hitters using that big barrel of the metal bat,” Welton said.


“If we used wood bats, we would develop better hitters,” he said.


I thought that was sort of interesting.