A $14.5 million settlement was reached Wednesday in the case of a Wayne family whose 2008 lawsuit
claimed the maker of Louisville Slugger bats, a sports retailer and youth baseball organizers were responsible for brain damage their son suffered when he was hit by a line drive while pitching in a 2006 LittleLeague game.Steven Domalewski is accompanied by his parents, Joe and Nancy Domalewski, to therapy Wednesday. From left, lawyer Ernest Fronzuto joins parents Joe and Nancy Domalewski at their home earlier. The ball struck Steven Domalewski in the chest, causing his heart to stop beating and depriving his brain of oxygen for about 15 to 20 minutes. The settlement between the parents of Steven Domalewski and bat maker Hillerich & Bradsby Co., of Kentucky, national retailer The Sports Authority, Inc., and New Jersey Little League was finalized
before state Superior Court Judge Garry Rothstadt in Paterson.The lawsuit has drawn attention to the possible risks of using lightweight aluminum bats in youth games. Critics have claimed
balls hit with a metal bat travel faster than with a wooden bat and havequestioned whether they should be considered safe for Little League use.Joseph Domalewski, 52, said his son, now 19, has grown as big as him. But he’s nearly blind from his injury and has a limited
vocabulary. He cannot walk without assistance.He sees a chiropractor and physical therapist regularly and when September rolls around, he will return to a school for special
needs children in Clifton.The hope is that one day Steven Domalewski will be able to live
independently, his father said. But that day is a long way off.
“We’re thankful to God for the progress that he makes every
week,” the father said, adding “his vocabulary is still very small. He
can’t walk on his own. I have to walk him.”Domalewski’s injury made headlines and drew attention and sympathy from families, lawmakers and professional baseball players. Since Steven was injured, his father, Joseph, has been speaking out against the bats. Several North Jersey towns banned non-wood bats and the New York City Council banned non-wood bats in high school games.
The Domalewskis contended that the model YB504 youth aluminum bat used in the June 2006 game is much lighter and stronger than traditional wood models and aluminum bats made 30 years ago. The lighter bat, with its hollow barrel, sent the ball rocketing back at Steven, then 12, who was 45 feet away on the pitcher’s mound.“We hope that this settlement will bring about some changes,” said Woodland Park attorney Ernest P. Fronzuto, representing the Domalewski family.In court, Fronzuto reviewed the numbers with the Domalewskis, who said they were accepting the defendants’ offer in the best interests of the ongoing care of their son — the financial agreement provides the Domalewskis with money to care for Steven for the rest of his life, his father said. Terms of the settlement do not appear to require Louisville Slugger to stop manufacturing metal and graphite bats, nor require Little League Inc. to stop using them. According to Fronzuto’s breakdown in court, of the $14.5 million, $698,035 goes toward the family’s attorneys fees. Another $4,037,991 goes to family’s attorneys as part of a previously agreed upon 25 percent contingency fee of any settlement or jury award resulted from the suit. The matter, which had been scheduled for trial Sept. 10, will now go before state Superior Court Presiding Chancery Judge Margaret Mary McVeigh at a later date to go over how the settlement funds will be managed and disbursed. The defendants’ share of the settlement was not specified and attorneys declined to say how much was paid by each. Rothstadt ruled last month that there was enough evidence in the case for it to proceed to trial, and denied the defendants’ motion that he dismiss it on a summary review of the facts. He also ruled that the Wayne Police Athletic League, who the defendants had sued to be included with them in the case, had not been at fault and dismissed the organization from the lawsuit.
The defendants named had accused the PAL of gross negligence in failing to properly maintain its baseball facility; lacking a written safety plan; and not providing adequate first aid.The line drive struck the boy in the chest in the millisecond between heartbeats, causing his heart to stop beating and depriving his brain of oxygen for about 15 to 20 minutes. He spent eight and a half months in the hospital and was rendered severely handicapped.Over the years, he has continued to undergo intense physical therapy and has made improvements, including taking steps with help from his
father. Last year, he attended his prom at the Passaic County Elks Cerebral Palsy High School.
Rick Redman, a spokesman for the manufacturer of the Louisville Slugger, said, “The matter has been resolved,” declining further comment. Hillerich & Bradsby has previously denied the suit’s allegations, while expressing sympathy for the Domalewskis. Little League Inc. has also stated that it regretted Steven ‘s injuries, but has stood firm in its position that there is no evidence aluminum bats are more dangerous than wooden ones.“With this settlement, Steven Domalewski will receive the lifetime care he will require as a result of this tragic accident, a type of accident that is extremely rare in youth baseball,” said Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball, Inc.The family had sued for emotional pain and suffering, punitive and other damages under product liability and consumer fraud laws.
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