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Monday, May 19, 2008
Are aluminum bats an unreasonably dangerous product?

The Tort Law Professor blog has details (and links) regarding a products liability lawsuit filed over an injury to a little league baseball player hit in the chest by a batted ball against, among other defandants, the manufacturer of the bat.

Under the "risk-utility" test for products cases, the plaintiff will have to show that the "usefulness" of the bat's design (aluminum, as opposed to wood), is not outweighed by the higher risks to players in the field that aluminum bats pose.

An interesting case to watch.

UPDATE (7:38 pm): A sympathetic Jeff Standen (The Sports Law Professor), in a wonderful post, predicts the case will fail.


I am curious to ask--why hasn't the parents sued the manufactureer and seller of the BALL used in the game (since, obviously, the ball hit the player and not the bat).

Still, either way, I wish this would get tossed out before discovery.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 5/19/2008 1:43 PM  

I'm not aware of a any "ball suit", but here is a pretty interesting case from early 2008.

"A mother who had gone to a Little League field to watch her 12-year-old son and was injured when she strayed into the path of a bat wielded in an off-field area by another player assumed the risk of injury "entailed by her voluntary proximity to the game," a divided appellate panel has ruled."

At least this Court looked at it as an assumption of risk, but I wonder if a minor can assume that risk. And if so, could they assume the risk with a wooden bat but not an aluminum one?

Blogger Jimmy H -- 5/19/2008 3:34 PM  

The family is also suing the sporting goods store that sold the bat... Hmmmm.... wonder if someone is trying to make a buck off of this kid

Anonymous Anonymous -- 5/19/2008 4:02 PM  

"Are aluminum bats an unreasonably dangerous product?"

If they are ultimately deemed to be, it could pose a serious problem for the sport. As Standen points out in his post, wood suitable for bats is in short supply, and given the current political climate, the wood-bat industry probably still exists today only because environmentalists have bigger fish to fry.

Blogger Joshua -- 5/20/2008 12:07 AM  

My view is that the product isn't defective (i.e. unreasonably dangerous). It's designed to hit a baseball hard. Sort of analogous to a knife (designed to be sharp and cut things well).

I suppose the plaintiff could argue that there is a point at which the bat becomes unreasonably dangerous for its intended use, but I don't know how it can possibly be proven at what point it becomes "unsafe". Assuming that a wood bat is "safer", how can it be proven that a wood bat wouldn't have caused the particular injury as well -- it doesn't matter what experts you have.

Also, you could make this claim about any piece of equipment. If a player got injured by a thrown 95mph fastball, one could argue that the injury wouldn't have occurred if the ball was made a little softer. The fan who gets hit by a puck wouldn't have been injured with a softer puck.

Assumption of risk might be a good defense here as well, but that's only relevant if the product is deemed defective (unreasonably dangerous).

Blogger Rick Karcher -- 5/20/2008 6:25 AM  

Even if (and thats a big, bright, neon-colored IF), the aluminum bat is found to be unreasonably dangerous, wouldn't it still be a rather difficult to prove liability here?

I mean, I'm pretty sure we're not applying a strict liability standard to baseball bat manufacturers and vendors.

It would seem to me that the plaintiffs would have to prove reckless disregard at the very least, but in a case like this, I would argue that you would even need to show wilful or wanton disregard.

Blogger Jimmy H -- 5/20/2008 9:21 AM  

Wood bat or aluminum bat the kid still gets hit with the ball in the chest. Players in the majors get hit all the time with batted balls. You only got 3 options you can either catch the ball, get hit by it or get out of the way. It's a part of the game.

Anonymous real estate lawyer -- 5/27/2008 11:05 AM  

Oh, how I wish this question was posed on my Products final.

If I were arguing this case, I would explain to the jury that the risk here is the probability of getting injured by a ball hit with an aluminum bat minus the probability of getting injured by a wood bat. The utility is that without metal bats, little league doesn't exist. Wood bats are simply too expensive. Plus, with all the talk in MLB about maple bats injuring spectators, I would argue that wood bats pose an even greater injury risk than metal bats.

But for poor lawyering, no chance this survives a motion to dismiss.

Blogger Adam W -- 5/31/2008 11:02 AM  

Does this become a different case is it is proven beyond doubt that the bat manufacturers have been intentionally out-smarting the test that limits kids' bats?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 11/04/2008 7:02 PM  

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