Dillon Yeaman, just 15 at the time of the accident, was pitching for his high school baseball team in a summer league in Oklahoma, when a batter hit a line drive with a Louisville Slugger aluminum bat. The ball hit Yeaman in the right side of his face, fracturing his right orbital bone and destroying his sinus cavity. He required multiple surgeries to remove tissue in his sinus cavity, rebuild the interior structure of his nose with titanium implants, and had two plates inserted into his head. Yeaman’s medical bills totaled about $80,000.
Yeaman presently suffers from diminished senses of taste and smell, and he has scarring on his face and scalp.
After a long recovery, Yeaman did return to playing baseball for his school in 2007, but always wears a protective mask over part of his face to guard against future injury.
Yeaman and his parents brought a lawsuit against Hillerich & Bradsby (better known as Louisville Slugger), the manufacturer of the bat, alleging that it is defective and unreasonably dangerous because it enables a ball to be batted at such high speeds that a player in its path does not have time to get out of the way. After five years of litigation, a federal court jury rendered a unanimous 7-0 verdict in favor of Yeaman and against Louisville Slugger. The total award of $951,000 included $80,000 to cover medical costs.
The jury found that the “Exogrid” aluminum bat was “defective.” Many ask the question relating to the assumption of the risk; “did Dillon Yeaman assume the risk of injury when he decided to play baseball that day in 2006?” The jury answered in the negative. The jury also found that the Louisville Slugger failed to warn about the dangers relating to this specific bat. They contended that the manufacturer should have placed a warning on the bat regarding the danger.
The plaintiffs offered evidence that aluminum bats are banned in Major League Baseball, and that if the players in Yeaman’s game had used wooded bats, he would have had time to get out of the ball’s path. As a matter of fact, in 2007, New York City banned the use of aluminum baseball bats for use in high schools. This year, aluminum bats have been banned from New Mexico high schools, as well. However, some of the coaches in New Mexico high schools say they will continue to fight to have this overturned.
If it will protect more young baseball players, perhaps the use of aluminum bats should be banned. The manufacturers must place warnings on products that carry risk of injury. Their failure to do so should continue to lead to punishment for the manufacturers. Is this justice?
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