A Not-So-Little League Settlement – Aronberg, Aronberg & Green
Two organizations you’ve certainly heard of—Louisville Slugger and Little League Baseball—will be paying a boy from New Jersey a hefty $14.5 million to settle a lawsuit that was filed after the boy was left with severe brain damage.
In 2006, the boy, Steven Domalewski, was hit square in the chest by a line-drive—the impact of the ball against his chest stopped his heart. The injury not only took him out of the game, but it took him out of the life that he had known for over a decade. Domalewski is now 18 years old, and, according to his sister, he doesn’t attend school. Instead, Domalewski receives therapy. Not only is he relegated to a wheelchair, he can’t speak freely—his verbal communication comes in short burst. The settlement, according to Domalewski’s attorney and family, will go to ensure that he will be taken care of for the rest of his life.
So, why were Louisville Slugger and Little League Baseball held responsible? Well, as for the former, Louisville Slugger manufactured the bat that struck the baseball that dealt the near-fatal blow to Domalewski. Metal bats, like the one used in the instance in question, have the ability to send baseballs flying at far greater speeds than their wooden counterparts. For example, 37% of baseballs hit with a metal bat leave the bat flying 100 mph. When we consider wooden bats, a mere 2% of baseballs leave the bat at speeds of 100 mph.
Why are metal bats used so prevalently in little leagues? For reasons stated above—they send the balls flying higher, faster and farther than do wooden bats, and when the players sometimes weigh less than the bats themselves, they need all the help they can get. The problem is when recreational baseball turns into a near-death situation. Obviously what happened to Domalewski wasn’t common—but that’s not the issue. It shouldn’t happen to anyone and because it happened to Domalewski, there’s evidence that it will happen again—and maybe next time the victim won’t be strong enough to survive. While Domalewski survived, he has lost a considerable amount of enjoyment of life. When his heart stopped on the field that day, his brain was deprived of oxygen for approximately 15-20 minutes, leaving severe injuries and lasting consequences.
Just as Louisville Slugger was held liable for their product, Little League Baseball has been jointly held responsible for allowing the bats to be used during games. Given the known risks associated with the bats, and the fact that similar leagues around New Jersey, and around the country, have banned the bats, the League should have had the wherewithal to ban the bats from use in the first place.
Domalewski’s story is tragic, and because justice was served and those responsible were held liable, this young man will have the finances to maintain his much-disabled life for years to come.
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