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ARTICLE ID 192636

$________ Defective "L-Screen" used to provide protection to pitcher during indoor batting practice – Plaintiff Little League coach struck in eye by batted ball – Ruptured globe – Surgery – Loss of sight in one eye.

Cumberland County, NJ

The 41-year-old plaintiff Little League coach contended that the "L-Screen" protective device used when pitching batting practice was defective, resulting in his being struck in the eye causing serious injuries, including blindness. The plaintiff stood behind a safety device called an “L-screen”. After releasing a pitch to a 12-year-old, the child hit a line drive and the baseball struck the plaintiff in the face with great force after it struck the lower horizontal bar and ricocheted up. The screen is shaped like an “L”, and the pitcher is supposed to stand behind the left side of the screen which is seven feet high, and release the ball over the lower screen, which is 42 inches high. In this case, the plaintiff was not entirely behind the “L” screen, and his upper body was exposed by being in the opening over the lower end of the screen. The defendant denied that the device was defective.

The defendant contended that the plaintiff failed to keep himself behind the netting and contended that human error was the cause. The plaintiff’s expert biomechanical engineer contended that alternative, safer designs should have been utilized and that the use of such alternatives would not have impaired the function of the device or have appreciably increased its cost. The plaintiff’s expert maintained that the horizontal and vertical bars of the L-screen should have been padded. The expert contended that without padding, the energy of a batted ball is not absorbed, and a ball ricocheting off metal, rather than padding, is likely to strike with greater force. The expert further contended that without padding, the netting is exposed around the metal vertical and horizontal bars, creating the risk that a batted ball may strike a knot on the bar, causing a ricochet that increases the chances of an individual being injured.

The plaintiff’s expert further related that the vertical and horizontal bars intersect at a 90 degree angle, approximately hip high, creating a large open space or “zone of danger” measuring 42” by 42”. The plaintiff’s expert contended that the defendant could have modified the machine to reduce this zone of danger. The plaintiff’s expert maintained that a safer alternative would entail the bars intersecting at a 45 degree angle. The expert contended that the 45 degree angle will diminish the “zone of danger”, and direct a ball away from a pitcher if it strikes the bar, rather than up and into the face of a pitcher. Another safer alternative design would include additional netting from the right corner of the higher horizontal bar to the right corner of the lower horizontal bar, further reducing the “zone of danger”, and completely eliminating dangerous ricochets off the lower horizontal bar because they would be caught by the netting.

The plaintiff suffered orbital fractures, a ruptured globe and despite surgery, will be permanently blind in the one eye. The plaintiff’s ophthalmologist maintained that the plaintiff may require an eye prosthesis in the future. The plaintiff related that because of sensitivity to sun glare and bright lights, he generally wears sun glasses. The plaintiff also maintained that he lives in great fear of suffering injury or illness to the other eye. The plaintiff, who works in insurance sales, made no loss of income claims. The case settled after mediation for $________.

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