Written by Rick
RESPONSIBILITY series, I have covered stories that range
from the absurd to the tragic.
In the ABSURD category, I would have to list
Killer Whale Lawsuit
as a good example of a lawsuit that should never have been
In the TRAGIC category, I think the
Deadly Desert Story
is a prime example. Sad to say, the story of the
aluminum bat tragedy belongs in this same category as well.
However, the Deadly Desert Story and the Aluminum Bat Story
differ in one significant way. While I believe a
lawsuit was called for in the Deadly Desert Story, as tragic
as the Aluminum Bat Story is, I still believe the lawsuit
Read the case and decide for yourself.
Short Version of Story
Family files lawsuit in metal bat injury case
WAYNE, N.J. (AP) — The family of a boy who suffered brain damage
after he was struck by a line drive off an aluminum baseball bat
sued the bat's maker and others on Monday, saying they should have
known it was dangerous.
The family of Steven Domalewski, who was 12 when he was struck by
the ball in 2006, filed the lawsuit in state Superior Court. It
names Hillerich & Bradsby Co., maker of the 31-inch, 19-ounce
Louisville Slugger TPX Platinum bat used when Steven was hit.
The lawsuit also names Little League Baseball and Sports Authority,
which sold the bat. It claims the defendants knew, or should have
known, that the bat was dangerous for children to use, according to
the family's attorney, Ernest Fronzuto.
"People who have children in youth sports are excited about the
lawsuit from a public policy standpoint because they hope it can
make the sport safer," Fronzuto said after filing the suit Monday
morning. "There are also those who are skeptical of the lawsuit and
don't see the connection between Steven's injury and the aluminum
Little League denies any wrongdoing, as does the bat manufacturer.
Sports Authority has not responded to several telephone messages
Steven was pitching in a Police Athletic League game when he was hit
just above the heart by a line drive. His heart stopped beating and
his brain was deprived of oxygen for 15 to 20 minutes, according to
Although he was not playing in a Little League game, the
organization is being sued because it gave its seal of approval to
the bat, certifying it as safe for use by children, Fronzuto said.
Version of Story
Family of boy disabled by line-drive
baseball holds onto hope
By Wayne Parry
WAYNE, N.J. -- She wraps her arms around her son, gently
raising the spindly 14-year-old boy off a couch to his feet.
She hugs him and rubs his back, whispering “I love you” over
and over. Steven Domalewski moves his head to kiss his
mother, but all he can manage are slurping sounds in front
of her lips. His head flops onto her shoulder, spent from
Less than two years ago, Domalewski was a happy, healthy
star pitcher on a youth baseball team coached by his father.
He loved martial arts, climbed every tree on the block and
zoomed down his street on inline skates. He once shot an
arrow into the wall of his basement rec room.
Now Domalewski is severely disabled, left with brain damage
after being struck in the chest by a line drive that stopped
his heart while he was playing in a youth baseball game.
His family plans to file a lawsuit Monday against the maker
of the metal bat that was used in the game, against Little
League Baseball and a sporting goods chain that sold the
bat. The family contends metal baseball bats are inherently
unsafe for youth games because the ball comes off them much
faster than from wooden bats.
There has been a string of injuries the past two decades
involving metal bats launching balls that have killed or
maimed young players across the country. The Domalewskis’
lawyer claims bat manufacturers put speed ahead of safety;
one even advertised a bat so powerful it is capable of
“beaning the third baseman” with a line drive.
Attorney Ernest Fronzuto says Domalewski will needs millions
of dollars worth of medical care for the rest of his life.
Other than the word “Yeah,” which he repeats over and over,
or “Dadada” which he sometimes utters when he sees his
father, Steven cannot speak. He also can’t walk or stand on
his own, and needs help with everything from using the
bathroom to eating.
“My son is serving a sentence, and the only thing he did was
pitch to an aluminum bat,” said his father, Joseph
Life changed forever on June 6, 2006
Steven Domalewski’s life changed forever on June 6, 2006, an
overcast evening in which his Tomascovic Chargers were
playing the Gensinger Motors team on the Wayne Police
Athletic League field.
Domalewski was pitching, on the mound 45 feet from home
plate. He wasn’t a hard thrower, but he had excellent
control. In the fourth inning, the first two batters reached
base. He went to a full count on the third batter.
What happened next unfolded in a flash, but has resulted in
an agonizing, slow-motion purgatory for Steven and his
The batter rocketed a shot off a 31-ounce metal bat. The
ball slammed into Steven’s chest, just above his heart,
knocking him backward. He clutched his chest, then made a
motion to reach for the ball on the ground to pick it up and
throw to first base.
But he never made it that far. The ball had struck his chest
at the precise millisecond between heartbeats, sending him
into cardiac arrest, according to his doctors. He crumpled
to the ground and stopped breathing.
His father, a school teacher who had been on the sideline,
and a third base coach from the other team ran onto the
field. Steven already was turning blue.
Someone yelled, “Call 911!” Within 90 seconds, a man trained
in cardiopulmonary resuscitation who had been playing catch
with his 9-year-old daughter jumped the fence and started to
work on Steven.
Paramedics, who were a quarter-mile away doing a CPR
demonstration, arrived within minutes. They placed an oxygen
mask over Steven’s face and rushed him to a hospital. But
the damage had been done; his brain had been without oxygen
for 15 to 20 minutes.
“Pretty much, he died,” Joseph Domalewski said, wiping away
tears. “It was just so fast. The thud, you could hear. When
it hit him, that seemed to echo.”
Lawsuit against baseball-bat company
The lawsuit is to be filed in state Superior Court in
Passaic County, naming Hillerich & Bradsby Co., maker of the
Louisville Slugger TPX Platinum bat.
The suit also will name Little League Baseball and the
Sports Authority, which sold the bat. It claims the
defendants knew, or should have known, the bat was dangerous
for children to use, according to the family’s attorney.
Hillerich & Bradsby said Domalewski’s injury, called
commotio cordis, happens more often in baseball from thrown
balls than batted ones.
“Our 124-year old, fifth-generation family-owned company
never wants to see anyone injured playing baseball, the game
we love,” the company said in a statement. “But injuries do
occur in sports. While unfortunate, these are accidents. We
sympathize with Steven and his family, but our bat is not to
blame for his injury.”
Stephen Keener, president and chief executive officer of
Little League Baseball, declined to comment on Domalewski’s
case, but said in a statement, “Little League will continue
its strong commitment to player safety, and we feel our
well-documented record of safety in youth baseball speaks
On its Web site, Little League denied that metal bats are
“Little League International does not accept the premise
that the game will be safer if played exclusively with wood,
simply because there are no facts — none at all — to support
that premise,” the organization wrote.
Representatives of The Sports Authority did not return
repeated telephone messages.
Hotly dispute issue: Aluminum or wood?
The suit touches on a hotly disputed issue that has been
roiling youth and scholastic baseball programs for years.
In 2003, Brandon Patch, an 18-year-old pitcher for an
American Legion team in Helena, Mont., was hit in the head
by a line drive off an aluminum bat and died several hours
later. In Pennsylvania, 15-year-old Donald Bennett was
struck in the face by a line drive from a metal bat while
pitching in a 2001 game, causing him to lose an eye.
New York City and North Dakota have banned metal bats for
youth and school sports, and New Jersey is considering a
Several states are studying the issue. Pennsylvania rejected
a proposed ban, and Massachusetts did likewise last year —
two months after a high school freshman throwing batting
practice was hit in the head by a line drive that fractured
his skull. He survived and is expected to make a full
The National Federation of State High School Associations
lets its members choose whether to use metal or wood; most
colleges use metal bats.
Metal bats are priced at as much as $300 but are considered
more cost-effective than wood bats — which sell for under
$100 — because they are far less likely to break and can
last for years.
Domalewski was playing in a Police Athletic League game, but
Little League was sued because the group certifies that
specific metal bats are approved for — and safe for — use in
games involving children.
Little League reached an agreement with the major
manufacturers of metal bats in the early 1990s to limit the
performance of metal bats to that of the best wooden bats.
On its Web site, the league said injuries to its pitchers
fell from 145 a year before the accord was reached to the
current level of about 20 to 30 annually.
The league said that since it started keeping records in the
1960s, eight players were killed by batted balls, six of
which were hit by wooden bats. The two metal bat fatalities
occurred in 1971 and 1973, before the new standards were
In 2002, the U.S. Consumer Safety Product Commission ruled
that there was inconclusive data to support a ban on metal
bats in youth and high school baseball games. Its own study
found that from 1991 to 2001, there were 17 deaths
nationwide because of batted balls — eight from metal, two
from wood, and another seven of unknown origin.
Joseph and Nancy Domalewski pray that their son will return
to what he was before the injury. But no doctor has told
them that is likely.
“I miss my boy, the way he was,” his mother said. “You can’t
take away our hope.”
“We describe our days as painful, and somewhat less
painful,” his father added. “Our hope is that he walks and
talks and becomes a functioning member of society and has
The Domalewskis have purposely left unfixed the arrow hole
that Steven made in the basement.
“We’re saving that for him to spackle when he gets better,”
his father said.
SHOULD KIDS SWING ALUMINUM BATS?
From the LA Times
-- Shari Roan
Considering how many kids play youth baseball or
softball, it's surprising that there is a lack of agreement
on whether aluminum bats are safe. A New Jersey family
announced today that it is filing a lawsuit against the
manufacturer of an aluminum bat as well as Little League
Baseball and the store that sold the bat after the family's
son was injured by a ball hit off an aluminum bat. The boy
was 12 when he was struck by a line drive. He survived but
suffered brain damage.
Some people say a ball comes off an aluminum bat with
more force than off a wooden bat, making aluminum bats
unsafe for kids. The issue has gained traction in some city
councils and state legislatures. New York City last year
banned metal bats from use in high school baseball games.
And a bill is before the Illinois state legislature that
would make it illegal for any adult to knowingly allow the
use of an aluminum bat during a recreational baseball or
softball game in which a person under age 13 is a
For its part, the Youth Committee of USA Baseball, of which
Little League International is a member, said in a statement
"There is no data to indicate that the few catastrophic
injuries to baseball pitchers from metal bats would not have
happened if the batter was using a wood bat."
The organization noted that the national Consumer Product
Safety Commission also studied the issue in 2002 and
concluded there is no evidence that aluminum bats pose a
greater safety risk than wooden bats.
Recreational sports give kids opportunities for much-needed
exercise as well as a chance to learn sportsmanship,
self-discipline, teamwork and many other values. It's tough
to stomach when a child is severely injured playing youth
sports. But as the blogger lawhawk said Sunday:
"While I have tremendous sympathy for the family, I
think the lawsuit will ultimately go nowhere as this will
likely come down to a battle of the experts, who can and
will show that there's no way to assign blame to the
manufacturer or anyone else as the injury could
also have been sustained as a
result of the use of a standard wooden bat."
The bat story is
important to all of us because it symbolizes every parent's
worst nightmare - You give your child permission to play
sports and then they get hurt. Most parents agree that
accidents are the risk you take when you let your child
participate in sports.
Normally when a kid gets hurt, the kid heals. Except
in this case, the poor child is brain-damaged. That is
The aluminum bat
scenario is similar to the kid who gets hurt using
playground equipment. Every time a kid gets hurt, the
church or the school or the city park cringes in fear lest
the parent decide to sue or not.
You have no idea how many lawyers advertise on the
Internet hoping to represent a lucrative Monkey Bar injury!
Coincidentally, I heard that a church in my
neighborhood recently installed some sort of foam rubber
padding. Seems some kid
broke an arm in a fall off the playground equipment.
For a while the parents threatened to sue, but eventually
But the psychic damage of worrying about the possible
lawsuit had its effect. The church was so intimidated
by the experience that it spent $10,000 making the ground
softer in case Little Johnny fell again. The ground under
the grass was much too hard!
As a result of stories like these, our entire society is
gripped with fear of lawsuits. Yes, the defendant may
win the lawsuit, but he or she are certain to ultimately
lose considerable money (lawyer's fees), time, and (most of
all) peace of mind.
The entire experience promises to be prolonged and
profoundly miserable for the defendant.
Meanwhile, the attorneys on both sides couldn't care less -
not only do they find a way to get their money, they aren't
the ones who suffer. Knowing that the attorneys will
stick around forever until they get their blood money, many
people give up. They just throw the towel in and
settle. Even though they have a good chance of
winning, the lawsuit is such an ordeal that many people
would rather cut their losses and get their life back.
Until there is a realistic PENALTY attached to filing
"unnecessary" lawsuits, you and I are stuck with this awful
legal system of ours.
Below is an example
of what you find on the Internet from our legal industry.
It took me 10 seconds to find it on the Internet by typing "lawsuit
playground" on Google. The law firms pay
to get the first listings. They are all lined up and
If your child was hurt or injured in a playground
accident, learn more about your legal rights!!
Annually in the United States, emergency departments
attend to more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger
for playground-related accidents.
About 45% of playground related injuries are
severe—fractures, internal injuries, concussions,
dislocations, and amputations.
If your child was injured at a playground as the result
of poorly kept play equipment, or at home due to a
manufacturing defect, you may be entitled to
compensation to pay for your child’s medical bills and
pain & suffering.
You can use these pages to research the most common
playground accidents, get playground injury statistics,
and learn about some of the most dangerous playground
Contact the experienced
premises liability attorneys of Shark
& Shark by filling out
the simple form below to inquire about your playground
Act Now! It is essential that you inquire about your
Playground Accident case as soon as possible. Your
individual state's law may limit your time to bring a
legal claim to protect your rights. Your legal review is
free and there is no commitment. Your case will be
evaluated immediately, so get started on your claim
To a casual observer like myself, this kind of behavior by
the law industry seems to make life harder for the rest of
us. Who wants to go on trial for allowing a kid to use
your playground? Who wants to go through the
agony of a lawsuit for sponsoring a Little League baseball
Life is short enough as it is without having a lawsuit filed
against you for letting some kid play with a baseball bat.
Yes, the tragedy was horrible, but it was a one-in-a-million
freak accident, not something that happens on a regular
Let's face it - accidents are the risk people take for
participation in sports. That's the way it is.
Back when I was in high school, the most popular boy in
school was a handsome, friendly kid named George. One
night out on the football field, George jackknifed his body
between two blockers in an attempt to tackle the ball
carrier. George took a chance and stretched his body
out awkwardly. The two blockers hit George from
opposite directions and turned him into a human sandwich.
George didn't get up. He would never walk again in his
life. His spinal column was shattered.
In one of life's great horrors, George's father was only twenty yards away
when this horrible accident unfolded. George's father was the
football team's doctor.
Imagine the feelings this man must have felt. That was
his kid out there!
Every parent's worst nightmare was indeed unfolding right
before his very eyes and he was helpless to do anything
Fortunately this stuff doesn't happen very often. In
fact, this kind of accident is exceedingly rare. This
moment remains the greatest tragedy I have ever witnessed in
my life. It was very sad indeed. But you
know what? Forty years later, there hasn't been
another accident even remotely as horrible at my high
school. That's what it was - a once-in-a-lifetime
Let me add that George's father did not sue the school.
In fact, he continued on as the team's doctor. He
didn't hold the school responsible. He didn't sue the
equipment manufacturers. George's father understood
the same thing that every parent has to face - Sports
involves risk. There are accidents in life.
Sometimes those accidents happen to your kid.
Before you give permission, you weigh the risks. How
likely is it that my kid will be badly hurt playing sports?
And yes, it is terrible when someone gets hurt badly.
I am sure the family is still deeply mired in grief. I
imagine they are bitter and desperate to lash out at
someone. That still doesn't make it right to go out
and sue every damn person you can think of because a
baseball bat connected too well with a baseball and created
a line drive so fast the poor child never had a chance.
But the family will never win. There is one story
after another where Major League Pitchers had their careers
ruined by line drives... except in their cases the bats were
all wooden. How will anyone prove beyond the shadow of
a doubt that this boy's accident would have not occurred if
the bat was wooden?
In the case of the aluminum bat story, I suppose the chances
of the family winning this lawsuit are very poor. But
there are a lot of people who are going to have their lives
disrupted while they defend themselves in this lawsuit.
Before it's over, they will face a lot of suffering and
accusations in the process... all because they volunteered
their time to help with the Police Baseball League.
That isn't right.
If you have a comment on this
story, by all means share it. I had my say; now I am
curious to see what other people think. I will publish
your thoughts without your name and email address. You
have my promise.