Strike Out: Montana Jury Rules Against Manufacturer of Louisville Slugger in Aluminum Bat Death

181px-FourbatsA Montana jury has rendered a surprising verdict. The jury ruled against the manufacturer of the Louisville Slugger bat, Hillerich and Bradsby. Notably, the jury rejected design defect claims but found a warning defect in the death of 18-year-old Brandon Patch who was hit in the head with a ball hit by a aluminum bat.

We have been following these cases closely as parents have sued over aluminum bat injuries and sought the imposition of “all-wood” rules for Little League, here. Parents complain that metal bats produce dangerously fast hits that endanger little leaguers.

Brandon was killed in 2003 while pitching a game at Helena, MT.

180px-Louisville-slugger-logoThe jury ruled that a proper warning should have been given on the bat itself about the danger. Counsel argued the ball that struck Brandon was traveling at 99.8 miles per hour. A home-run hit off a metal bat exceeds 100 miles per hour.

The jury awarded $792,000 to the family and $58,000 to the parents for their emotional distress.

There is still a request for punitive damages outstanding.

The verdict in a conservative jurisdiction is likely to encourage more such lawsuits as the debate continues to rage over the use of wooden versus aluminum bats.

For the full story, click here.

20 thoughts on “Strike Out: Montana Jury Rules Against Manufacturer of Louisville Slugger in Aluminum Bat Death”

  1. Byron,

    I never said I didn’t believe in “A” god. Just not the one most humans refer to, you know, the invisible sky father. If you’ll read back carefully you’ll see I’m more of a lapsed Christian, pro-Buddhist deist. I have no issue that “something” created all this and that there is some purpose to it. I just think it’s beyond human comprehension and therefor not a topic others should be allowed to dictate as their understanding is certainly no greater than mine (an intellectual conceit I’ll grant, but one I can defend). I also have no issue that whatever set this in motion is indifferent to humans at best, an Aristotelian prime mover that is disinterested in specifics, but I’m not an atheist per se like our good friend FFLEO.

  2. I would definitely say that balls hit by an aluminum bat have a much greater speed than balls hit by a wood bat. I’ve noticed this in my own games and even in practice when hitting infield or fly balls. I think the difference is not only in the increased bat speed with aluminum bats, but also what has been referred to as the trampoline effect.
    In fact, there are new regulations that are coming into effect on the types of aluminum or composite bats that are allowed in softball and baseball games. In our own baseball league for safety reasons we have mandated that all games be played with wood bats.

  3. BobEsq/Buddha:

    I was actually speaking externally, the physical world. It is. There are things that we dont know about it yet and that we should be looking into. But why it is here? Why cant we just accept that it is here and go from there. Probably in looking into the how it works we will eventually figure out why the universe exists.


    Your thoughts above come very close to the possibility of the God you dont believe in.

  4. Buddha: “And it’s not some trippy party game being played by those with a propensity for chemical recreation, but topic seriously considered by some physicists.”

    Are you sure I’m not having a flash forward during an acid party 20 years ago?

  5. Byron,

    Google the term “holographic universe” and then get back to us on what is and what is not.

    Reality for all practical purposes is what group consensus defines it to be based upon experience derived from similar contextual points of observation of the universe with similar sensory input combined with communication and verification of said data. By it’s very nature, this is a transient definition. This is so because the objective reality, the very fabric of space-time you refer to, is not only fluid over time (entropy) but dependent upon a common set of relationships we create as a language using species. Objective reality, by definition, is not just that which we can quantify as a species but also that which we cannot. This comports with the Incompleteness Theorems. Keep this in mind when reading about holographic universes. You took the red pills once. This might make you double up. We may all really be a dream within a dream, an abstract set of data points in something else’s matrix. Not just us here and now either, but every us we could have been and still could be. And it’s not some trippy party game being played by those with a propensity for chemical recreation, but topic seriously considered by some physicists. I also think the idea of holographic universes meshes well with the Many Worlds Theory. Universes stacked likes layers of cake made of interrelated data. Hmmmmm. Tasty. But not to challenge if the cake is made of flour or not? Yeah, I’m going to have to go with Bob and Socrates on that “unexamined life” thing. There are no bad questions, just unsavory answers.

  6. Byron: “We exist, the world exists, the solar system exists, the universe exists. Why waste time on what is?”

    Er, um… because… the unexamined life is not worth living?

  7. BobEsq:

    Spend time on discovering how things work and their inter-relationships with one another.

  8. BobEsq:

    someone dies someone has to pay, people want a reason for everything. sometimes it is because it just is. Much like the existentialists navel gazing, why worry about why, it just is.

    We exist, the world exists, the solar system exists, the universe exists. Why waste time on what is?

  9. Byron,

    Thank you for the clarification.

    I think I had momentum on the brain from the World Series; where Fox Sports has this new radar that measures the speed of a pitch from leaving the pitchers hand and again once it arrives at the plate (about 12 mph slower). I always assumed it measured it just before crossing the plate.

    Either way, I’m still having a hard time imagining how a Montana (‘big sky’) jury could fall for that tripe.

  10. Buddha:

    a wiffle ball bat in the hands of a two year old is an invitation for violence.

    I was playing hop on pop with my 2 year old son many moons ago when he got off the bed got the bat and proceeded to crack me right across the “boys”. Both went down for the count and the frozen peas we were going to have for dinner that night went to a far nobler cause.

    I subsequently had another child, but for the first 24 hours after that attack there were some serious doubts.

  11. I was going to suggest “Warning: Physics In Action” but I think Stel’s suggestion is more marketable in the tradition of the the “low fetal birth weight” cigarette warning label. The warning needs to be in language men cannot only understand but feel free to ignore if the result is either a perceived coolness factor, hilarity and/or violence. Please note that in the minds of most men these results sought are not mutually exclusive.

    On the serious side, the ruling is crap as per my colleague the right honorable Raoul Duke has pointed out – the guy was 18 and not a child incapable of understanding that a bat (no matter what it’s made of unless it’s made of cotton candy) is essentially a club and ergo capable of inflicting grievous bodily harm either purposefully or accidentally.

    There is a reason there are no warnings on whiffle ball bats. They have so little mass that even if a kid can knock over the furniture with it, they’d be Hell bent on a Sisyphean task if they wanted to beat their brother or sister to death with one. Oh yeah, there’d be red marks and possibly a lot of crying and screaming but everyone is walking out of the Thunderdome after the Trial of Whiffle Ball Bats. This ruling is some how supposed to “protect the children”? Pardon, but that’s simply bullshit. Children are smart enough to know baseball bats are dangerous (at least those meant to survive to adulthood do anyway). Adults aren’t smart enough to realize this fact and hence the knee-jerk responses every time something goes wrong and kids are any where near the picture. This is the type of unnecessary judicial order that earns judges the title “activist judge” and diminishes the bench’s authority when addressing substantive structural matters. Why? Because this is a matter of warning labels should be appropriate to the legislature to decide, not the courts, in this instance. This isn’t like drug warnings or the Ford Pinto or lead paint: the risks are 1) minimal to whole population and 2) well known and understood by all sane and legally competent adults. This ruling’s on par for stupidity with the recent British banning of “helicopter” parents and nannies from playgrounds.

  12. BobEsq:

    Kinetic Energy = 0.5(M)(V)^2

    5 ozs = 0.01 slugs (mass 1 slug = (1)lbf s^2/ft

    lbf = pound force
    s = second

    K @ 98 mph = 0.5(0.01 lbfs^2/ft)143.73 ft/sec)^2 = 103.29 lb-ft

    K @ 106 = 0.5(0.01)(155.46 ft/sec)^2 = 121 lb-ft

    % difference = 121-103.29/103.29 = 17%

    Energy required to fracture a skull = 33 ft-lbs (not sure if this is correct)

    As you are saying either way the energy was above the required threshold for damage.

  13. Aluminum bats do not have a proper place in baseball. never have, never will. Whether or not this verdict is a great thing as far as abstract tort jurisprudence goes, it is good for baseball. And, as far as I am concerned, that is the important thing.

    Same as with the overly hot coffee, frankly.

  14. “failed to adequately warn of the dangers of the bat?”


    1. The kid was no “kid;” he was 18 and assumed the f’n risk.

    2. The average difference between a ball hit by a metal as opposed to a wooden bat is between 4-8mph faster; e.g. 98-106mph.

    3. How does a less than ten percent difference in speed warrant an extra warning requirement for the metal bat? P=MV

    From the official rules of baseball:

    The ball shall be a sphere formed by yarn wound around a small core of cork, rubber or similar material, covered with two stripes of white horsehide or cowhide, tightly stitched together. It shall weigh not less than five nor more than 5 1/4 ounces avoirdupois and measure not less than nine nor more than 9 1/4 inches in circumference.


    5.25 ounces (0.14883500 kg) x 43.81 meters per second (98 mph)


    0.14883500 kg x 47.39 meters per second (106 mph)


    How fast was Liam Neeson’s wife skiing when she suffered an “epidural hematoma due to blunt impact to the head?” Remember, she was lucid after impact and didn’t feel injured enough to warrant any medical attention.

    My point?

    The difference in momentum between a 5.25 ounce baseball traveling 98 mph v. one traveling 106 mph is essentially irrelevant to the issue of causing a deadly head injury such as an “epidural hematoma due to blunt impact to the head.”

    This ruling should be appealed.

  15. I would expect a verdict like this in Miami. Did the Dade courts go up north for the season to cool off? This can’t stand on appeal.

  16. I don’t get it: the boy was pitching – he could not have read a warning on the bat if it existed anyway.

  17. This verdict is so wrong and this is coming from a Plaintiff’s attorney. Somethings in this world are just inherently dangerous. Like a loaded weapon, swimming with sharks, playing ping pong in traffic, Dick Cheney. The list could go on and on.

    Baseball is an action game where some things just happen naturally. Like hitting the ball, not that the Cubs or Royals have anything to worry about.

    Next someone will say Running with the Bulls while drunk is dangerous.

  18. A warning on the bat? Really? Come on people. It is tragic that a child was killed, but, who doesn’t know that getting hit in the head with a baseball might be a problem? Would the parents have not let the kid play IF there had been a warning on the bat? No, I don’t think that is the case, the kid would have still been playing. It is getting ridiculous in this country, people blame accident on manufacturers not having warning labels. Come on people, what’s next? Warning labels on every single outlet cover in a home warning that just on the other side is a charge of electricity that is perfectly capable of lighting you up like a Christmas tree? Use common sense, and don’t look to reconcile a tragedy by suing. Guess what, $850,000 isn’t going to bring the child back, but it will in most likelihood have a negative effect on thousands of other kids looking to enjoy the game. Freak accidents happen. They really suck, but that’s why they are called accidents. All the warning labels in the world would not have prevented that.

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