The Iowa Supreme Court has reversed lower court ruling and says a case involving a wayward softball bat in Carroll County should go to trial. Benjamin Feld was in high school and playing first base during practice for his intramural slowpitch softball team in June of 2005.

Teammate Luke Borkowski, a right hander, stepped in to take his practice swings. He hit a long fly ball toward foul ground in left field, and as he did so, the bat flew out of Borkowski’s hands and helicoptered down the first baseline where it struck Feld in the head. Feld’s left eye was injured, and Feld and his parents sued Borkowski for medical and other costs. Borkowski’s defense was that softball is a contact sport and he should not face any liability because “it was a freak accident.”

Feld countered with testimony from the baseball coach at Creighton University, who testified he had never seen a right-handed batter hit a ball left of third base and lose control of a bat by releasing it in the direction of first base. He testified the only way a right-handed batter could hit a first baseman with a bat was if the batter threw the bat or let go of the bat in such a way that it was flung with considerable force through the air towards first base.

The district court and appeals court dismissed the case based on the contact sport exemption. The Iowa Supreme Court however ruled the coach’s testimony was enough to “give rise to a reasonable inference of recklessness” by Borkowski. The court says a jury could conclude Borkowski continued his swing “in a very unorthodox manner and released the bat in momentary frustration and anger” after failing to make good contact with the ball.

While the Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower court, a couple of justices disagree on the idea of including softball as a contact sport. Justices Wiggens and Appel issued special statements saying they do not believe softball should be considered a contact sport.

See the entire ruling here: Softball ruling PDF