Recently a Montana jury ordered the company that makes Louisville Slugger aluminum bats to pay $850,000 to the family of a man who was killed when he was hit by a batted ball. They claimed that he didn't have time to react because aluminum bats cause the ball to travel at a greater velocity than wood bats.
When I read about this verdict I was sickened. While I sympathize for the family of Mr. Patch, I feel this was a frivolous lawsuit. Why not also sue the league which allowed the use of aluminum bats? The truth is, no matter what the batter uses to strike the ball, if you hit someone just right there is a chance that person will die. Ray Chapman was killed by a pitched ball (slower than a batted ball) and Mike Coolbaugh was killed by a ball batted by a wood bat.
As part of the verdict the jury also ordered the company, Hillerich and Bradsby, to place warning labels on its aluminum bats. THow many times have you watched a major league pitcher not able to move in time to avoid a ball batted by a wood bat? Interestingly, the jury found the bat was not flawed. Their emotional strings were expertly tugged by a soulless shyster who saw a big payday for himself provided by the deep pockets of a law-abiding company.
It's sad, very sad. There is a family without a son in Montana, a son who died tragically, accidentally. It is sad because there are lawyers willing to accept these cases and judges unwilling to throw them out. It is also sad because there is now a precedent on the books for more plaintiffs to sue for what is clearly not negligence.
William T.M. Theisen
Editor's note: Ray Chapman was a Cleveland Indians shortstop who died in 1920 and Mike Coolbaugh was a Tulsa Drillers base coach who died in 2007. The case about which the author writes was decided Wednesday in the District Court of Lewis and Clark County, Mont., over the death of Brandon Patch after he was struck by a batted ball during a game in 2003 in Helena, Mont.