After 12 hours of deliberation, a jury sided with the parents of baseball pitcher Brandon Patch in a civil suit over the player’s death during a 2003 game in Helena.
Aluminum bat maker Hillerich & Bradsby Co. failed to provide adequate warning as to the dangers of the bat used by a Helena Senators player during the game, according to at least eight of the 12 Lewis and Clark County jurors.
Hillerich & Bradsby Co. was ordered to pay $792,000 to Patch’s estate, which is represented by his mother, Debbie Patch, who filed the suit.
In the verdict the jurors found the company, which makes Louisville Slugger bats, liable for failing to warn users of the danger of its aluminum bats and that this failure caused the accident that killed 18-year-old Patch.
A third decision was that the bat was not defective. Attorneys representing Debbie Patch argued during the week-long trial that the bat used on July 25, 2003, was defective because it was more dangerous than the average user would expect.
Another $58,000 was awarded by the five-man, seven-woman jury to parents Debbie and Duane Patch for their mental grief and funeral expenses.
All teams should use wooden bats, the way professional players do, Debbie Patch added. Aluminum bats have been scrutinized because of the internal wall structure and because their weight is more evenly distributed than wooden ones, making them easier to swing harder and faster.
Eyewitnesses called by the plaintiffs said they could not see the ball between the time it left the bat and when it ricocheted off Patch’s head. Patch collapsed on the mound. He died as a result of his injuries about four hours later.
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