After 12 hours of deliberation, a jury sided with the parents of former Miles City American Legion baseball pitcher Brandon Patch in a civil suit over the player’s death during a 2003 game in Helena.
Aluminum bat maker Hillerich & Bradsby Co. failed to provide adequate warning as to the dangers of the bat used by a Helena Senators player during the game, at least eight of the 12 Lewis and Clark County jurors agreed Wednesday.
Attorneys for Hillerich & Bradsby Co. argued any other bat would not have hit the ball differently; in fact, they said, most bats on the market at the time would have struck the ball harder. Patch’s death was a tragic accident, they said. The defense lawyers declined comment after the verdict was read.
Baseballs hit with aluminum bats, such as the one used in that American Legion game, only give pitchers milliseconds to respond in a defensive stance, the plaintiffs said. Plaintiff’s attorney Joe White said the average time needed by a pitcher to defend a batted ball is 400 milliseconds. Patch had 378 milliseconds to respond, he said.
Eyewitnesses called by the plaintiffs said they could not see the ball between the time it left the bat and when it ricocheted off Patch’s head. Patch collapsed on the mound. He died as a result of his injuries about four hours later.