WAVE 3 announced the verdict on October 28th regarding the case against the maker of Louisville Slugger bats, Hillerich & Bradsby. Guilty. The Lewis & Clark County District Court in Helena, Montana found H & B guilty for failing to place a warning label on aluminum bats the company produced which played a role in the death of 18-year-old Brandon Patch in 2003.
Judge Kathy Seeley ruled in favor of the Patch family and ordered H & B pay $850,000 in damages. In 2003, Brandon Patch was struck in the head with a baseball coming off of an H & B aluminum bat while pitching in an American Legion baseball game. Attorneys for the Patch family argued that Brandon did not have enough time to react to the ball being hit before he was struck by it. The plaintiffs contended that baseballs hit off of aluminum bats fly at a greater velocity than those off of wooden bats. Although the jury ultimately concluded that the Hillerich & Bradsby aluminum bat was made according to standards and not in any way defective, it still should have contained a warning label for users.
The Patch lawsuit is just one of several over the past few years against the company because of baseball related accidents. Included are a New Jersey family whose son suffered brain damage after he was struck by a line drive off of an aluminum Louisville Slugger and the parents of an Oklahoma teenager who endured severe head injuries after a similar incident according to an Associated Press article on the case. This is also not the first time aluminum bats have come under fire. Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star Tribune recorded an account from eight years ago that listed numerous instances of aluminum bat related accidents and injuries. He mentions that before the 1999 baseball season, the NCAA adopted new rules relating to the size of aluminum bats which were copied by The National Federation of High Schools 2 years later.
The latest verdict is just one of many from the past and left to come against aluminum bat manufacturers. Hillerich & Bradsby Vice President of Corporate Communications Rick Redman released a statement following the verdict expressing the company’s condolences to the family but stated that it was an emotional court decision. Redman maintained that the company violated no rule governing the production of the bat and stated, “The verdict that our company ‘failed to adequately warn of the dangers of the bat’ has left us puzzled. It seems contradictory for the jury to say the bat is not defective but our company failed to warn that it could be dangerous. It appears to be an indictment of the entire sport of baseball.” Reactions to the ruling have resulted in mixed responses but Hillerich & Bradsby have no plans for an appeal.