The Iowa Supreme Court released an opinion today in Feld v. Borkowski. The case centers around a slow-pitch softball practice, where the players were taking batting practice. The batter, Borkowski, was a right handed hitter. On this particular pitch, Borkowski swung too early, fouling the ball high and foul over the left field line. However, during some part of his swing, Borkowski released the bat, sending it flying….down the right field line, where it struck the first baseman, Feld, in the forehead causing serious damage. This is not a normal flight pattern for a released bat.
The issue for the Court was to first determine whether softball is a contact sport. If it is a contact sport, the batter is liable if his conduct was reckless or intentional. If softball is not a contact sport, the batter is liable if his conduct was simply negligent. The Court determined that softball was a contact sport, so that its players should be on notice that such type of danger is inherent, unless the danger was created by reckless conduct, which would place liability on the acting party.
The Court then considered an affidavit from Ed Servais, the Creighton University head baseball coach. Mr. Servais noted that a right handed hitter who fouls a ball down the left field line should not, under normal circumstances, ever release his bat down the right field line. The Court found this to raise an issue of recklessness that was appropriate to take the case to a jury.
Another interesting story at the intersection of sports and the law. Stay tuned to see how this case turns out when it goes to trial.