A manufacturer should not be required to pay damages because a product performs its intended function too well, says an appeals court, in upholding dismissal of a jury award against the manufacturer of an aluminum Louisville Slugger bat, in a case where a teenage pitcher was injured.
Fifteen-year old Dillon Yeaman was pitching during a high school game in 2006 when a line drive ball hit with a Louisville Slugger Exogrid aluminum bat hit him in the face, according to Monday’s ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in Dillon Andrew Yeaman; Michael Yeaman; Cathy Yeaman v. Hillerich & Bradsby Co., d/b/a Louisville Slugger.
The ball fractured his frontal bone, frontal sinuses, nasal bones and the orbital walls of both eyes. Doctors inserted a mesh plate in his forehead and two splints under his nose and rebuilt the bridge of his nose with titanium. Dillon lost his sense of smell, and his sense of taste was permanently altered, according to the ruling. He subsequently went on to play outfield in college.
His parents filed suit against the bat’s manufacturer, Louisville, Kentucky-based Hillerich & Bradsby Co. with defective design and failure-to-warn claims. The parents claimed the bat hit the ball “too fast” was “too hot of a bat” and had “enhanced performance,” said the ruling.
A jury in federal District Court in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma awarded a total of $951,100. The judge however, set aside the verdict, on the basis insufficient evidence had been presented.
The three-judge appeals panel unanimously agreed. “Without any objective evidence as to the ball exit speed expected by the ordinary baseball bat consumer or the ball exit speed produced by the Exogrid, there was no basis for a rational jury to reasonably find the Exogrid to be dangerous beyond that expected by the ordinary bat consumer,” said the ruling, in upholding the district judge’s ruling on the defective design issue.
For the same reasons, the duty to warn was not triggered, said the panel, in upholding the lower court on this issue as well.