My blog friends over at Abnormal Use are reporting on yet another little league baseball bat case today. For a change, though, this one was decided in favor of the manufacturer. I posted a comment on their website so you can go there and read their post and my comment. Let me just add one point here. According to the story, the judge who decided the case wrote that "the experts who testify about the supposedly dangerous characteristics of aluminum bats are talking about a relative scale. Fewer players would be injured if Little Leaguers used foam-rubber bats, but it doesn’t reasonably follow that manufacturers of wooden bats would then be liable for imparting “increased exit speed” to the ball."
It seems to me this view misses the point. One basic underlying theory of tort law is that we can't make our society entirely safe. Risk, danger and injuries are a part of life. Tort law is one of many mechanisms we can use to regulate the level of risk we are willing to accept in our lives, not to eliminate it. We can't eliminate all risk, and even if we could, we would not want to because that would mean abandoning many of the convenient things we use and enjoy - like cars, for example. And baseball. Yes, it is true that fewer players would get injured if we played baseball with rubber bats and whiffle balls, but then that would not be baseball. The point is that we have accepted the risks of baseball when played with hardballs and solid wood bats. But as we start our kids playing the game earlier and earlier we want them to be as safe as possible while still playing the game. That is why we now require better helmets and protection and other things. That is why Little League baseball (the official organization) has banned the use of dangerous aluminum bats and regulates those that are permitted for competition.
The fact that we have used the solid wood bat as a benchmark for one of the risks involved in baseball makes it easier - not more difficult, as the judge suggests - to explain the level of risk involved and to justify recognizing a cause of action the result of which - at least in theory - may work to help regulate that risk in the future.
For my most recent posts on baseball bat safety go here and here.