After twelve hours of deliberation, a jury in Lewis and Clark County, Montana recently sided with the parents of former Miles City American Legion baseball pitcher Brandon Patch, who died after being struck in the temple by a batted ball in a 2003 baseball game against the Helena Senators. Hillerich & Bradsby Co., an aluminum bat manufacturer best known for their Louisville Slugger bats, was found liable for Patch’s death because it failed to provide adequate warning as to the dangers of the bat used by a Helena Senators batter. Hillerich & Bradsby Co.’s attorneys argued any other bat would not have hit the ball any differently; in fact, they claimed most bats on the market would have stuck the ball even harder and that Patch’s death was a tragic accident. The Patch family’s attorneys, however, argued Brandon only had 378 milliseconds to respond to the batted ball, whereas most bats on average give 400 milliseconds to respond. The bat manufacturer was ordered to pay $792,000 to Patch’s estate. The funds were allocated to cover the earnings Patch would have made had he lived, and the pain he suffered for four hours after the injury before ultimately dying. Another $58,000 was awarded to Patch’s parents for funeral expenses and their mental grief.
Aluminum bats have faced a lot of scrutiny due to their internal wall structure and because their weight is more evenly distributed than wooden ones, making them easier to swing harder and faster. A third decision made in the suit was that the bat was not defective, therefore making it more dangerous like the Patch family attorneys claimed. The Patch family said the suit was never about the money but was to get adequate warning about the dangers of these bats so something like this will not happen again. They have also started to advocate for the use of wooden bats. Brandon Patch’s baseball team reverted to wooden bats after his death.