Little League, Manufacturer, and Retail Chain settle lawsuit
The parents of a New Jersey boy agreed to settle his lawsuit for $14.5 Million against Little League Baseball, Inc., the manufacturer for Louisville Slugger bats, and The Sports Authority. The injury occurred in 2006 during a youth baseball game where the plaintiff was pitching and struck in the chest by a line drive hit by a metal bat. The plaintiff went into cardiac arrest resulting from a blow to the heart within the precise millisecond between heartbeats. This condition, known as commotio cordis, is extremely rare. Paramedics reached the scene within minutes and later revived the plaintiff but brain damage occurred. The plaintiff can’t perform any functions of his daily life according to his attorney.
The plaintiff alleged that the metal bat was unsafe because it produced an exit speed in excess of wooden bats. Even though the injury did not occur during a Little League game, it was argued that the bat that was used was approved, and thus deemed safe, by Little League.
My opinion: I know of no test that has shown that commotio cordis is more likely to occur at higher ball speeds as it frequently occurs at ball speeds under 40 mph. This settlement was most likely based on fear that the jury would disregard the law of negligence and make an emotional decision based on the extent of the damages. This settlement represents a significant loss for Little League’s General Liability insurance carrier and may send shockwaves through the sports insurance industry. While a settlement does not set legal precedent, this news is not good for sporting goods manufactureres and sports sanctioning bodies that approve equipment. Look for changes to be made in the labeling of stamps and for more disclaimers of liability in product instructions.