Settlement Reached in Wheaton, Illinois Baseball Death Calls for New Safety Rule

Naperville, Illinois, June 13, 2013. The family of a young boy who tragically died as a result of injuries he suffered after being struck by a baseball has reached a confidential settlement with Oswego Baseball & Softball Association (“OBSA”), a PONY baseball organization. The settlement calls for the adoption of a new safety rule intended to protect young players during warm ups that are often conducted away from the field.

On April 11, 2012, Eric Lederman, age 12, suffered fatal injuries when he was struck by a baseball during a warm up off the field during an OBSA travel baseball game in Wheaton, Illinois. Eric was warming up a pitcher when a ball thrown at him struck him in the neck. Eric was not wearing a catcher’s helmet, mask, or any other protective equipment required by PONY baseball rules. Eric died from his injuries the next day.

John J. Malm & Associates was retained by Eric’s father, Brian Lederman, to represent the family in a wrongful death claim against OBSA. A settlement reached by the parties emphasizes the importance of player safety and the use of protective equipment. In the settlement, OBSA has agreed to adopt “The Eric Lederman Rule,” a new safety rule requiring that at least one coach be assigned to manage the safety of players while not on the field, to help ensure that players warming up off the field are given appropriate safety equipment, including catcher’s helmet, mask, and protective gear.

Each year, nearly 8.6 million players between the ages of 6 and 17 participate in the game of baseball—the second most commonly played team sport in the United States. Baseball injuries, although infrequent, are often serious and sometimes fatal. Injuries occur most often as a result of a player being struck by a ball that is thrown or pitched. According to a University of North Carolina study, over half of the 29,000 baseball injuries reported between 1987 and 1996 were due to ball-related mishaps. Thirteen of these incidents resulted in death. As many as four children die due to baseball-related injuries every year. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 39 deaths were reported between 1989 and 2006. Players between the ages of 9 and 12 were found to be at the highest risk for baseball injuries.

Illinois sports injury attorney John Malm wishes to remind parents that “most injuries can be reduced or prevented by using protective equipment, such as helmets, chest protectors, and masks.” Malm explains that, “despite laws in Illinois that shield or protect organizations, teams, and coaches from liability for injuries occurring on the field of play, the failure to utilize safety equipment will often result in legal liability when a tragedy occurs.”

Brian Lederman hopes that his son’s tragic death will serve as a careful reminder to parents, coaches, and baseball organizations to pay close attention to what happens on and off the baseball field and to take steps to ensure that safety rules are followed during warm ups. He hopes that other baseball organizations will adopt the Eric Lederman Rule, as OBSA has done, to help protect young players.