More than five years after a Norman High School pitcher was struck in the face by a line drive, his parents have won a product liability claim against the maker of the aluminum bat used in the incident.
Michael and Cathy Yeaman were awarded nearly $1 million in damages Friday by a federal jury, which found bat makers Hillerich & Bradsby liable for the design of the Exogrid Model CB71X, and for failing to warn of the bat's dangers.
Dillon Yeaman was pitching in a summer league against Westmoore High 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 his forehead.
Plates also were implanted, and he was left with a large scar on his scalp.
Yeaman returned to action for Norman High in April 2007, wearing a protective mask over part of his face to avoid another injury.
The Yeamans sued the 100-year-old bat company, whose signature model is the Louisville Slugger, claiming in court documents that the bat's design was “defective and unreasonably dangerous … posing a “known risk of grave harm” to those using it.
Hillerich & Bradsby, the plaintiffs maintained, marketed the bat based upon “profit-driven motivations, and was consciously indifferent to the dangers which the bat posed.”
Neither the plaintiffs nor their attorney could be reached for comment Monday.
The bat maker, according to court documents, argued that the Exogrid was in compliance with “rules, requirements and specifications which had been created by the NCAA and adopted by the National Federation of High Schools, the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association and Pure Prairie League,” the summer league Yeamans was playing in when he was injured.
Across the nation, more than a dozen players have been killed by batted balls, according to a recent study. In 1999, an Enid player was hit in the head by a batted ball and suffered brain damage.
The player successfully sued the bat company.
The bat in question in the Yeaman case is banned by Major League Baseball and recently was prohibited for use by the NCAA, which has adopted a new testing standard that requires metal bats to perform more like wood in order to protect pitchers and other players.
A 2002 Brown University study found balls hit by metal bats have a higher velocity, an average of 93.3 miles per hour compared to 86.1 mph by wood bats.