DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — UPDATE: The Iowa Supreme Court has reversed the decision against Davenport Assumption High School and the case has been remanded. In their decision, the court says the lower court abused its discretion in not allowing the high school to present evidence.
"We further find the district court erred when it failed to instruct the jury on the player’s failure to maintain a proper lookout. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the district court and remand the case to the district court for a new trial."
ORIGINAL 7/2/15: A jury awarded more than $1 million to a former high school baseball player who sued an Iowa high school because his skull was shattered by a foul ball while he was in a dugout.
Spencer Ludman alleged in his April 2013 lawsuit that Davenport Assumption High School was at fault because the dugout didn’t protect him. A Scott County jury ruled in his favor on Monday after a trial that began June 22.
Assumption’s attorney, Lori Cole Magerko, said Thursday that the private school will likely appeal the verdict and award.
The line drive foul ball hit Ludman behind his left ear as he stood in the first base dugout on July 7, 2011, while playing for Muscatine High School in a game at Assumption. His skull was fractured and he suffered brain swelling that required hospitalization.
“He had to learn how to walk and talk again after he left the hospital,” said his attorney Steve Crowley. Since suffering two serious seizures in March 2012, Ludman must take anti-seizure medication that can make him drowsy, Crowley said.
Ludman “is attending the University of Iowa, doing reasonably well,” his lawyer said.
Assumption originally could have placed the dugout farther from the first base line for more safety or added gates at the dugout openings, Crowley said. The jury awarded Ludman nearly $1.5 million but found him to be 30 percent at-fault, saying he should have been more attentive while standing in one of the dugout openings. That cut his award to $1.03 million.
Cole Magerko said she disagreed with the judgment because the plaintiff’s lawyers were allowed to argue it as a premises liability case, instead of a sports liability case.
“We thought that it was a sports liability case that should not have gone to the jury,” she said. “We were not allowed to argue the inherent risk to the sport.”