A federal judge has overturned a verdict won by the parents of a Norman baseball player struck in the face by a line drive in 2006.
Michael and Cathy Yeaman sued bat maker Hillerich & Bradsby after their son, Dillon Yeaman, was seriously injured, claiming in court documents that the design of the aluminum bat used in the incident was “defective and unreasonably dangerous” and posed a “known risk of grave harm” to users.
In December, a jury found the 100-year-old bat company, whose signature model is the Louisville Slugger, liable for design of the Exogrid Model CB7IX, and for failing to warn of the bat's dangers, and awarded $871,000 in damages to Dillon Yeaman and $80,095.85 to his parents.
However, U.S. District Judge Stephen P. Friot, in a Sept. 5 opinion, said the plaintiff's evidence “failed altogether to provide any rational basis for a jury finding that it was the performance of the Exogrid bat that, broadly speaking, caused Dillon's injuries, or, narrowly speaking, deprived Dillon of the extra milliseconds he needed to defend himself.”
The judge also found that “the lack of a warning did not cause or contribute to Dillon's decision to pitch to (the batter) without protection.”
Oklahoma City attorney Joe E. White said Friday he plans to appeal the latest ruling on behalf of the family.
“Everyone's disappointed, given what the family has been through,” White said. “Dillon sustained a very serious injury that will be with him for the rest of his life.”
Dillon Yeaman was pitching for Norman High School in a summer league game against Westmoore High School on June 28, 2006, when he was struck in the face by a batted ball.
The impact broke his nose and the bone containing his eyeball. Yeaman, who was 15 at the time, underwent surgery that included the removal of tissue in the sinus cavity behind the forehead. Plates were implanted and he was left with a large scar on his scalp.
Dillon Yeaman returned to action for Norman High in April 2007, wearing a protective mask over part of his face to avoid another injury. He is now a senior outfielder for the University of Oklahoma baseball team; he could not be reached for comment Friday.
Hillerich & Bradsby argued that the bat in question was in compliance with rules, requirements and specifications created by the NCAA and adopted by school governing bodies throughout Oklahoma.
The bat maker, in a statement, expressed its appreciation to the court for “its time and thoughtful consideration of the case.”
“We make products that abide by all of the bat performance specifications set by baseball's numerous governing bodies. Our people, guided by our principles, ensure our historic company plays by the rules.”