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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Parry:  $14.5M for boy’s brain injury from metal bat

A New Jersey teenager left brain-damaged after being struck by a line drive off a metal bat while he was playing in a youth baseball game will receive $14.5 million to settle his lawsuit against the bat manufacturer, Little League Baseball and a sporting goods chain.

Domalewski was pitching when the batter rocketed a line drive off the metal bat he was swinging.
The ball slammed into Steven’s chest, just above his heart, knocking him backward. He clutched his chest, then made a motion to reach for the ball on the ground to pick it up and throw to first base to get the runner out.
But he never made it that far. The ball had struck his chest at the precise millisecond between heartbeats, sending him into cardiac arrest, according to his doctors. He crumpled to the ground and stopped breathing.

Domalewski was playing in a Police Athletic League game, but Little League was sued because the group certifies that specific metal bats are approved for - and safe for - use in games involving children.

McCoy Posted: August 22, 2012 at 11:57 PM | 18 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: chumming, little league

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   1. McCoy Posted: August 23, 2012 at 11:17 AM (#4215712)
I would have thought our local lawyers would have been opining on this by now.
   2. PepTech Posted: August 23, 2012 at 11:39 AM (#4215744)
I would definitely prefer a shot to the nuts.
   3. Don Geovany Soto (chris h.) Posted: August 23, 2012 at 11:45 AM (#4215755)
So presumably this is a cheaper-than-going-forward-with-the-lawsuit settlement, combined with we'll-look-like-########-fighting-a-brain-damaged-kid thing. Obviously the story is heartbreaking, but I'm wondering what the actual argument against the bat manufacturer is. In other words, what made them liable?

(Not implying anything; I am genuinely curious.)
   4. ColonelTom Posted: August 23, 2012 at 12:46 PM (#4215854)
The bat manufacturer is presumably liable for (1) making a juiced-up bat that, due to its design, causes the ball to travel faster than is reasonable for the age level and distance, and/or (2) failing to warn the purchaser, leagues, etc., that the bat created a risk beyond the normal, inherent risks of playing LL baseball.

I'm more interested in why Little League Baseball is liable. According to the article, the game wasn't even a Little League-sanctioned game, but LLB was sued because they'd taken it upon themselves to regulate bat performance and, in doing so, gave their stamp of approval to the bat used in this incident, implying that it was safe to use.

I wonder if that's why they've done virtually nothing on the issue of heart protectors - they may be afraid of being held liable if they approve a product and a kid dies while wearing it. Of course, that means we're all wandering around in the dark when choosing heart protection. My 9-year-old pitches and wears an EvoShield chest and rib guard, but I'm essentially banking on the company's reputation and size (i.e., that they'd actually be able to pay rather than declare bankruptcy, thus they have an incentive to make a good product), not any scientific proof that the thing actually works.
   5. Rants Mulliniks Posted: August 23, 2012 at 12:52 PM (#4215864)
Gee, I wonder why its so hard to establish new busninesses in the USA?
   6. Lassus Posted: August 23, 2012 at 01:04 PM (#4215883)
Don't you have any Canadians you can troll?
   7. zenbitz Posted: August 23, 2012 at 01:13 PM (#4215896)
The side bar cut split this headline to "$14M for boys' brain"

Probably a more interesting story.
   8. Rants Mulliniks Posted: August 23, 2012 at 01:14 PM (#4215897)
Funny you mention that, because the first example that came to mind was of a snowplow operator in Newfoundland who had to close his business because he couldn't afford the liability insurance required to get the contracts to plow mall parking lots. Apparently even in Newfoundland its asking too much that people have an expectation that they might fall on the ice in winter.
   9. PreservedFish Posted: August 23, 2012 at 01:21 PM (#4215909)
I wonder if that's why they've done virtually nothing on the issue of heart protectors - they may be afraid of being held liable if they approve a product and a kid dies while wearing it. Of course, that means we're all wandering around in the dark when choosing heart protection. My 9-year-old pitches and wears an EvoShield chest and rib guard,


I have never heard of any of this. Heart protectors? Is that a thing now? Is your kid required to wear it?
   10. Squash Posted: August 23, 2012 at 01:28 PM (#4215920)
Gee, I wonder why its so hard to establish new busninesses in the USA?

I would imagine the occasional lawsuit is offset by the fact that we give complete corporate rights and that you get to keep more of your own money here via low taxes than in virtually any other developed country in the world. Sometimes I wonder which is the country people would prefer to start their business in? Surely not communist China, or oligarchist Russia, which are probably the best two places in the world to have a business, as long as it's state-approved of course.
   11. Athletic Supporter can feel the slow rot Posted: August 23, 2012 at 01:29 PM (#4215923)
This is dumb. The fact that the story is so tragic doesn't change the fact that it's an accident. You mean hitting baseballs hard in semi random directions can have a bad outcome? Of course it can! Yeah, you got incredibly unlucky, but ... I guess the scattershot rage lawsuits are a part of Being An American.
   12. Rants Mulliniks Posted: August 23, 2012 at 01:42 PM (#4215949)
Surely not communist China, or oligarchist Russia, which are probably the best two places in the world to have a business, as long as it's state-approved of course.


I'm no commie. Taxes in the US may still be relatively low, but they are more than offset but neverending list of permits, licenses, inspections, assessments, etc. that need to be done. The occasional lawsuit isn't the problem, its the massive amount of liability insurance many companies are forced to carry. Surely you're not characterizing the US (or Canada for that matter) as business-friendly.
   13. ColonelTom Posted: August 23, 2012 at 01:58 PM (#4215980)
I have never heard of any of this. Heart protectors? Is that a thing now? Is your kid required to wear it?


I don't know if it's a "thing" - they're being marketed to combat exactly what happened to the kid in this story, a condition called commotio cordis.

Heart protection is not required. A few of the kids in our league wear some sort of chest protection, but not many. The evidence is mixed on whether the products actually help. I figure it helps my kid feel more confident getting his body in front of grounders, it's unlikely to make him less safe, and the EvoShield shirt is relatively comfortable and unobtrusive (unlike many of the heart guards on the market). The EvoShield shirt also has rib guards in back, which are awfully nice to have when someone hits you with a fastball in the back. EvoShield doesn't specifically market it to protect against commotio cordis, though, unlike some other companies' bulkier products on the market. For me and my kid, it's a compromise between wearability and protection.

Little League hasn't ignored the issue completely, to their credit. They talked about CC at some length in this 2008 newsletter, for example, and have recently been urging leagues to have "safety plans" and defibrillators in place for situations like a commotio cordis incident. I'd like to see them be more proactive in identifying protective gear that's effective and wearable, but they haven't done it to this point.
   14. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: August 23, 2012 at 02:44 PM (#4216061)
making a juiced-up bat that, due to its design, causes the ball to travel faster than is reasonable for the age level and distance, and/or (2) failing to warn the purchaser, leagues, etc., that the bat created a risk beyond the normal, inherent risks of playing LL baseball.

What possible evidence could be presented in support of either of these arguments? Not picking on you Colonel, just wondering. The suit sounds totally baseless to me (IANAL but I've watched a lot of L&O). At the end of the day wouldn't it be someone's actual responsibility to vet the equipment being used? Who put the bat in the kid's hand? Who bought it in the first place?

Trying to think of an analogy. If I buy a product that seems to all appearances to be intended for use in a certain activity, but is actually secretly SUPER DANGEROUS when used in the context of that activity (like this bat supposedly was), I can sue the company producing the product for not providing my stupid ass with a complete list of possibly permuted ways in which it would be unsafe to use the bat? Isn't this why we have catch-all safety warnings such as 'use only as directed' in the first place?

EDIT: Also, the speculation about LLB's liability is quite interesting. Reminds me of the flap about concussion-safe(r) helmets in the NFL. As I recall, the theory goes that the NFL won't regulate that players use safer helmets because they're afraid of then being held liable when somebody got hurt anyway. All the talk at FO concluded with some pretty compelling expert legal opinions that debunked that theory.

And if LLB can be held liable for sanctioning the equipment in question as safe, doesn't it then seem a more reasonable conclusion that the equipment in question is in fact safe and that happening to get hit in precisely the wrong spot at exactly the wrong millisecond is, in fact, a normal risk assumed by a youth baseball player (leaving aside for the moment that that seems overwhelmingly like the obvious conclusion to begin with)?
   15. ColonelTom Posted: August 23, 2012 at 03:18 PM (#4216108)
What possible evidence could be presented in support of either of these arguments?


There have been plenty of studies on batted-ball speed using various bat models. Little League, in conjunction with bat manufacturers, started testing bats in the 1990s to deal with concerns about new "hot" bats, particularly composite bats. Believe me, both sides' experts would have had plenty of scientific data to work with.

At the end of the day wouldn't it be someone's actual responsibility to vet the equipment being used? Who put the bat in the kid's hand? Who bought it in the first place?


Yes, it's someone's responsibility to vet the equipment being used. Ultimately, though, consumers are not in a position to run the sorts of studies necessary to determine whether the bat conforms to historical norms of bat performance. Bat manufacturers are in a position to do that, and the existence of legal liability for them is essential to force them to perform those studies. Likewise, Little League is in a position to regulate the equipment required or permitted in LL-approved local leagues. A parent who purchases a bat that says "Little League Approved" reasonably would believe that the particular bat would not increase the normal, inherent risks of participating in the sport.

To clarify, we'll never know what information there was on the particular bat involved, since there's a confidentiality agreement as part of the settlement. Little League has acted since the incident in question to eliminate most composite bats, largely because they can easily be taken from normal, acceptable performance limits to unacceptably hot through use and/or tampering by "rolling," which essentially breaks in the bat through a mechanical process to make it hotter.
   16. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 23, 2012 at 04:13 PM (#4216194)
I would imagine the occasional lawsuit is offset by the fact that we give complete corporate rights and that you get to keep more of your own money here via low taxes than in virtually any other developed country in the world.

Corporate taxes in the USA are among the highest in the world.
   17. PreservedFish Posted: August 23, 2012 at 04:21 PM (#4216203)
Sometimes I wonder which is the country people would prefer to start their business in? Surely not communist China, or oligarchist Russia, which are probably the best two places in the world to have a business, as long as it's state-approved of course.


The World Bank ranks this sort of thing. The US is 4th best in the world for "ease of doing business," behind Singapore, Hong Kong and New Zealand. It ranks 13th in the world for ease of starting a business, behind an amusing list of places that includes the likes of Singapore and Canada as well as Rwanda, Macedonia and Belarus.

link
   18. valuearbitrageur Posted: August 23, 2012 at 06:37 PM (#4216294)
Corporate taxes in the USA are among the highest in the world


Let's make sure we point out that the US has one of the highest corporate income tax rates in the world, but the actual taxes paid are dependent upon deductions/etc. for example, many big US companies are multinational, they pay taxes on their foreign subsidiaries in those countries, not here, unless of course they want to bring the profits back home. And foriegn businesses pay lots of VAT.

And like the individual income tax code, it's got tons of deductions/exemptions to ensure that businesses run by favored special interests pay lower rates, while the less politically connected pay very high rates.

I don't believe in the corporate income tax, it's counter-productive, inhibits investment and as I said, unfair to many businesses. Why would we ever demand that a business, before it's allowed to reinvest profits, first surrender 40% (state and fed) of that capital? Especially with unemployment so high?

Replacing corporate income tax entirely with a sales tax that couldn't be perverted by special interests (like VATs have been would) be far better. It would dramatically increase the incentive to start and run businesses in the US, and voila, we'd get a trillion or so in capital trapped offshore by our high tax rates returned to be reinvested here.

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