Judge Refuses to Toss Verdict in Aluminum Bat Case

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – A district judge on Friday denied a motion by attorneys for Louisville Slugger to throw out a verdict that found the baseball bat company liable for the 2003 death of a baseball player during a game in Helena.

The company argued that the attorneys for the parents of former Miles City American Legion baseball pitcher Brandon Patch failed to produce evidence that, had a warning been given, Patch would have altered his actions to avoid injury. Patch died after he was struck by a ball that was hit by an aluminum bat.

His parents sued the company in 2006, alleging that an “unreasonably dangerous” metal bat caused his death and Louisville Slugger failed to warn of the dangers. In October, a jury sided with the Patches and awarded them $850,000. The jury said the bat was not defective in design, but the ordinary user was not properly warned of its dangers.

In November, attorneys for the bat company filed a motion for judgment seeking to amend the ruling. But District Judge Kathy Seeley denied the request Friday.

“The Court finds that in this case the jury may properly have inferred from the evidence that a warning would have been heeded and the failure to warn caused the injury,” she said.

Hillerich & Bradsby, the company that owns Louisville Slugger, was ordered to pay $792,000 to Patch’s estate. Those funds were to cover the lost earnings of Patch had he lived and the pain the 18-year-old suffered from the injury before he died about four hours after being struck in the temple with the ball.

The family was awarded $58,000 for their pain and suffering and damages.