(CN) – Louisville Slugger cannot overturn an $850,000 judgment awarded to Montana parents whose 18-year-old son died at the baseball game he was pitchingnafter getting hit in the head by a line drive.
Brandon Patch was pitching in a 2003 American Legion game when he was hit in the head by a ball batted with a Louisville Slugger CB-13 aluminum bat.
Patch died from his injuries, and his parents sued Louisville Slugger’s parent company, Hillerich & Bradsby, for product liability and wrongful death.
Debbie and Duane Patch claimed that the bat enhanced the speed of the ball compared to other bats, and a videotape of the incident showed that Patch had less than the average 0.4 seconds to react to the ball. The reaction time for this incident was 0.376 seconds.
The trial court tossed the Patches’ manufacturing defect claim, but let the design defect and failure to warn claims proceed. A jury later found that the bat was not defectively designed, but that the bat was in a defective condition since H&B failed to warn consumers that using the CB-13 bat carried enhanced risks.
H&B appealed the $850,000 judgment and demanded a new trial, arguing that the trial court failed to instruct the jury and should not have excluded its assumption-of-risk defense. The company also argued that the court improperly allowed the failure-to-warn claim and should have granted the company’s motion for judgment as a matter of law.
The Montana Supreme Court unanimously rejected the appeal on all counts.
“In this context, all of the players, including Brandon, were users or consumers placed at risk by the increased exit speed caused by H&B’s bat,” Justice Mike Wheat wrote for the court. “H&B is subject to liability to all players in the game, including Brandon, for the physical harm caused by its bat’s increased exit speed.”