(Pittsburgh, PA): Late yesterday, a jury in Allegheny County, Court of Common Pleas awarded 14-year-old Zachary Hoffman $1.7 million in damages against Sewickley Borough, and the Avonworth and Quaker Valley Athletic Associations.

Hoffman, then age 11, was hit by a foul ball while in the dugout during a game played at Chadwick Field in Sewickley, PA. Hoffman was badly injured and medical testimony was presented that there would be long-term consequences from the injury, as well as pain and suffering.

Alan Perer of SPK, attorneys for Hoffman, said that the defendants were responsible for the injury because the dugout was not properly protected by a fence to prevent foul balls from entering that area. There was evidence that such fences are required by Little League safety regulations and are customary at Little League baseball fields.

Right after the incident, Mr. Hoffman took his son to a local hospital, and he was then rushed to Children’s Hospital, where he underwent brain surgery. As a result of his injuries, Zachary sustained a fractured skull, brain shift, bleeding on his brain, as well as severe changes in behavior, mood and impulse control.

“He woke up a different person,” Alan Perer said. “His whole personality changed.”

Zachary changed schools and now is accompanied by special education teachers in his classes. He has struggled with his studies and has pain every day, Perer said.

During research into the lawsuit, Alan Perer discovered that another child, who was in the same dugout, was struck in the chest by a foul ball a year earlier. However, the child was wearing a chest protector and was not injured.

“They knew it, and nobody did anything,” Perer said. “They let it go.”

According to Little League rules, all dugouts need to be fenced and screened, and the dugout at Chadwick Field did not meet the organization’s standards, Mr. Perer said. A week after Zachary’s injury, he added, the rest of the fencing was added.


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