On October 28, the family of Brandon Patch won a $850,000 settlement against bat manufacturer Hillerich and Bradsby Co.
Six years ago, on July 25, 2003 in an American Legion baseball game, 18-year-old pitcher Brandon Patch delivered a pitch. The batter hit the ball with a Louisville Slugger C513 aluminum bat. After striking Brandon Patch's head, it was reported that the ball then ricocheted 50 feet in the air before it landed behind first base. Brandon Patch was dead in four hours.
The jury’s verdict:
1. On plaintiffs' (Debbie Patch) claim for failure to warn:
a. Did the Defendant (Hillerich & Bradsby, Co., d/b/a Louisville Slugger and Universal Athletic Services, Inc.) fail to adequately warn of those dangers which would not be readily recognized by the ordinary user of the product?
b. Was failure to warn a cause of the accident?
2. On plaintiff's (Debbie Patch) claim of defective design:
a. Was the product defective?
Attorney Steve Kallas on "The Sports Edge with Rick Wolff" on WFAN, "...nobody warned any of the players about how dangerous the bat would be…as a result of the bat being dangerous… that the ball comes off the bat too quickly, Brandon Patch died, and and they are trying to hold Louisville Slugger responsible for that.”
Hillerich & Bradsby Co. was the sole defendant in this civil case.
Should metal bat manufacturers have known that their bats are more dangerous than wood bats?
In Foul Play: Episode Four, Robert Adair, Sterling Professor Emeritus of physics at Yale University and former official physicist for Major League Baseball's National League and author of the book, "The Physics of Baseball,” stated,
“The ball will always come off the aluminum bat faster than off a wood bat.”
Professor Adair’s assigned at minimum a five percent increase to the speed of the ball coming back to the pitcher. That five percent difference means that the ball struck by a metal bat will reach the pitcher two and a half feet sooner than one struck with a wood bat.
That the jury ruled that Hillerich & Bradsby Co. was liable for not making people aware of the attributes of the bat's design, and not that it was a defective product is significant. The bat performed as expected. The extra force delivered to the ball, the “trampoline effect” which makes the ball go faster and farther is an essential attribute of Hillerich & Bradsby's marketing for their metal bats.
This is from their website:
"...The H2's stiff handle and transition produces more barrel flex for maximum trampoline effect and greater performance"
According to the AP, defense attorney Rob Sterup said in the courtroom,
"This bat did what was expected of it. There's no showing it did anything different,"
While people have commented on the size of the judgment, $850,000, for the Patch family, pending Judge Kathy Seeley’s determination of punitive damages, few have commented on how important the manufacture and sales of metal bats are for Hillerich & Bradsby Co.
In fact, Hillerich and Bradsby Co., despite having 60 percent of the 2009 Major League Baseball market with their wooden Louisville Slugger bats, make more money from their metal bats that are marketed for youth and amateur baseball.
Hoover's reports that “H&B was slow to adjust and nearly went out of business. Today metal bats are H&B's biggest moneymaker.”
Representing the Patch family was attorney Joe White Jr. According to Steve Kallas, he is the only lawyer to win a jury verdict against a bat company. He defeated Hillerich & Bradsby Co. in 2002 on behalf of Jeremy Brett. Read about this and other cases on Foul Play: Episode Two